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Pakistani School Closed, Christian Principal Suspended for Alleged Blasphemy

A nursing school was shut down and its Christian principal and four students suspended after Muslim pupils accused unknown people of desecrating verses from the Quran, officials said Saturday.

Sat, Jun. 02, 2007 Posted: 12:19:47 PM EST


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – A nursing school was shut down and its Christian principal and four students suspended after Muslim pupils accused unknown people of desecrating verses from the Quran, officials said Saturday.

The action by the management of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science — the main hospital in Islamabad — came two weeks after Muslim nurses protested that verses from Islam’s holy book about proper manners in drinking water had been erased from a wall.

Altaf Pervez, an area police chief, confirmed the incident, but said he didn’t know who was to blame.

No spokesman for the hospital, which runs the school, was immediately available. But principal Stella Hidayat said she was still in shock after being suspended.

“I was on leave when this incident happened. I don’t know why they punished me,” she told The Associated Press.

A doctor at the hospital, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the suspensions have been imposed to “defuse tensions.” The doctor said dozens of female students from a notoriously fundamentalist seminary had demanded action against those they said had committed blasphemy.

Shahbaz Bhatti, who heads the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance — which groups together Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis — asked the government to reinstate Hidayat and the suspended students.

“The extremism has now reached our teaching hospitals,” he said, adding the government must probe the matter and take action against whoever was responsible for making the suspensions without evidence.

Christians and other minorities in the Islamic nation of 160 million people generally live together peacefully. However, some churches have been attacked following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America. Most of the attacks have been blamed on pro-Taliban militants.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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