Raza Muhammad is being hunted by Islamic fundamentalists and is currently hiding out in Germany

Susan KorahFrom radical Islamic extremist determined to convert “infidels” to his faith to the leader of a Christian organization in Germany, Raza Muhammad’s journey has been fraught with danger at every step of the way.

Hunted by extremists in his own country, Pakistan, he is now living in exile in Germany, working for a Christian organization that supports all refugees there, regardless of their country of origin.

He is currently seeking asylum in Canada for his family, whose lives are in grave danger because of his conversion to Christianity. His ally in this endeavour is Rev. Majed El-Shafie, president of the Toronto-based human rights organization One Free World International, which has launched a petition to Canadian authorities on his behalf.

“Last week OFWI sent an open letter to Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, highlighting the grave nature of Raza’s family’s situation and urging him to take immediate action to bring the family to safety,” said El Shafie.

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Photo courtesy Karolina Grabowska

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Raza is chair of a Christian organization. His conversion story is almost as dramatic as that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus.

“I was once a radical Muslim and an Imam who was convinced that Islam was the only true faith and Christians had to be converted,” he told me.

He was so fervent in his belief that he was sent to Athens, Greece, to preach Islam in a Christian country and to “plant mosques” there, as he puts it. But it was in Greece where he experienced the power of Christian love and forgiveness, and began to question his own faith.

“I was touched by the way I was treated in Greece,” he said. “Christian people were honest and didn’t try to steal from me. A Greek couple treated me like their own son. They brought me food and gave me gifts at Christmas and Easter. They respected my religion and didn’t try to convert me.”

In Europe, he was exposed for the first time in his life to the concept of human rights, which led him to begin to ask questions.

“In Pakistan they try to convert Christians to Islam by forceful means including forced marriages and false accusations of blasphemy,” he said.

The turning point for Raza came in 2009 when radical Islamists, including his former boss, the leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a far-right Islamic extremist political party, cried out for the blood of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Catholic woman alleged to have committed blasphemy by drinking water from the same cup as her Muslim co-workers. A court in Pakistan sentenced her to death by hanging.

Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis appealed for the charges to be dropped. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian minister at the time, and Salman Taseer, governor of the province of Punjab, were assassinated for advocating on her behalf. Bibi’s family went into hiding after receiving death threats from Islamic fundamentalists.

After nine years on death row, she was released when the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned her death sentence. Thousands of club-wielding pro-blasphemy law supporters took to the streets and threatened to kill the judges. Bibi was flown to Canada under tight security, and granted asylum here.

Shaken to the core of his being, Raza asked himself if there was no mercy or forgiveness for Bibi in Islam. Encouraged by his Greek friends, he went to a church and prayed.

“Three times I had a dream,” he said. “I dreamed that Jesus called me by name and told me, ‘Raza, come to me. I am waiting for you.’ ”

He resigned from his position as a missionary Imam and went back to Pakistan. He met and prayed with small groups of Christians in underground churches.

One day, he was discovered and attacked by Islamic extremists who broke his arms, legs and ribs. A fatwa (a religious and legal decree issued by religious leaders) calling for his death was placed on his head, but he escaped, first to Iran, then to Turkey and finally to Europe.

He was baptized in Spain in July 2013.

Although he now lives in Germany, the shadow of Islamist hatred hangs over him like a dark cloud. Separated from his family, he constantly worries about their safety because they, too, have become the targets of a relentless vendetta.

Four fatwas have been placed against Raza and his family since 2010, and they have become regular subjects of hostile coverage by media in Pakistan aligned with Islamist parties.

“I am accused of inciting people to burn the Koran everywhere, and of masterminding the Koran burning incident in Sweden,” he said.

He was referring to the incident of June 28 last year when a 37-year-old Iraqi refugee ripped out and set fire to pages of the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque. This incident brought a storm of protests within the Muslim world.

“My family in Pakistan is being hunted. Islamic extremists have vowed to behead us all simply because I became a Christian. We have been stabbed, shot, beaten, and, in the case of my sister, murdered. I am desperately seeking help and asylum for my family before we all suffer the same fate as my sister.”

His family is currently living in hiding while Islamic extremists are publicly calling for their beheading for the “crime” of maintaining a relationship with Raza after his conversion to Christianity.

“We are asking Minister Miller to exercise his ministerial powers and grant Raza’s family asylum in Canada,” said El Shafie. “Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have enabled and encouraged legal discrimination and persecution of minorities.”

El Shafie urged all Canadians to sign the petition, which has garnered over 3,000 signatures so far, and to raise the issue with their Members of Parliament.

Susan Korah is an Ottawa-based journalist. This article was submitted by The Catholic Register.

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