Hundreds of people in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore attacked a Christian neighborhood Saturday and set fire to homes after hearing accusations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam’s prophet, officials said.
Over 3,000 Muslim protesters turned violent over derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed allegedly made by Sawan Masih, a 28-year-old Christian, three days earlier, police official Multan Khan said.
Blasphemy has acquired a hair-trigger sensitivity across Pakistan in recent years, with an alarming increase in mob violence.
The incident started Friday when a young Muslim man accused a Christian man of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet, according to Multan Khan, a senior police officer in Lahore.
“Police arrested Masih, a sanitary worker, on Friday night while the incident actually happened on Wednesday evening,” Khan told AFP.
He said that the arrest was made when Masih’s barber friend Shahid Imran complained that he had made blasphemous remarks about Prophet Mohammed, adding that Christians had fled the area on Friday evening, fearing a backlash.
A rescue operation official Ahmad Raza said, by evening, about 178 houses, 18 shops and 2 churches had been damaged by fire.