Staff at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, have gone on strike after a Christian member of staff was slapped for refusing to attend a morning reading of the Quran.
The superintendent of Mian Mir Hospital, Dr Muhammad Safraz, allegedly slapped a Christian paramedic. Staff went on strike in solidarity and shut down all the medical facilities at the hospital.
A doctor at the hospital said: 'Such behaviour is embarrassing for all hospital staff, the discrimination is not only limited to this incident; we are witnessing discrimination against Christians staff members daily.'
According to Pakistan's Express Tribune, non-Muslim staff are forced to recite verses of the Quran at morning meetings and those who refuse are marked absent and lose pay.
Fahad Ahmed, a Muslim paramedic, told the Tribune: 'I don't know why the administration is forcing our Christian brothers to do this. This is totally unacceptable.'
A senior law enforcement official who asked to remain anonymous said extremism among doctors and other paramedical staff was nothing new and urged the health department to frame a code of conduct to avoid any such incident in future. 'The issue of Mian Mir hospital is just a small manifestation and also serves as an alarm bell,' he concluded.
At only 1.6 per cent of the population, Christians are a tiny minority in Pakistan and frequently face discrimination and intimidation. The country's repressive blasphemy laws, widely condemned by human rights activists, are used to punish Christians and other minorities for any perceived slight on Islam and are frequently used to settle scores against minorities.
Attempts to reform them have led to the assassination of politicians, notably Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. The lynching last month of Mashal Khan, a Muslims university student accused of blasphemy, sparked condemnation from Pakistan's National Assembly and calls for safeguards against the abuse of the laws, though the Assembly did not call for their repeal.