Friday, May 11, 2007

Christians in northwest Pakistan receive threatening letters urging conversion to Islam

Associated Press:

Christians in northwest Pakistan have received threatening letters warning them to shut their churches and convert to Islam, officials said Thursday, the latest sign of how religious extremists are trying to police society.

Copies of the handwritten letter were delivered to two churches and several Christians' homes in Charsadda, a northwestern Pakistan town where the federal interior minister last month escaped a suicide attack that killed 28 people.

Christians have alerted police to the letters and security has been stepped up at churches, said a local police official, Ali Haider.

Police are investigating who sent the unsigned notes, which gave the Christians 10 days to convert, Haider said.

He said the letter did not say what consequences they might face if they did not comply with the ultimatum, which expires May 17.

The threats come amid a spate of reports about how religious extremists are trying to impose Taliban-style social strictures across an expanding swath of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

Other recent examples are bombings of music stores — including two blasts in Charsadda last week — threats to barbers not to shave customers' beards and pressure for the closure of schools for girls.

Iqbal Khan, another local police official, said a small bomb tied to a motorcycle exploded in Charsadda late Wednesday, damaging several CD shops. He said authorities had yet to make any arrests over the bombings.

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