ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Female Islamic students on an anti-vice drive have abducted an alleged brothel owner and have locked her up at their fundamentalist seminary in the Pakistani capital, police said Wednesday.
Authorities have arrested four of the seminary's teachers in connection with the abduction. With jihadist songs playing on the loudspeakers of a neighboring mosque, about 200 students staged a protest at the school Wednesday demanding their release.
Abdul Rashid Ghazi, vice principal at the seminary, threatened jihad, or holy war, unless the teachers were freed by 4 p.m. He said this was in line with a religious decree issued by the Lal Masjid mosque's prayer leader — Ghazi's brother, Abdul Aziz.
"These vulgarities (brothels) are destroying society and the decree says that in this situation, jihad is the only way," he said, without specifying what that would entail. "They (police) have arrested our respected, veiled teachers for a corrupt woman."
A police officer confirmed that a number of the Jamia Hafsa seminary's teachers had been arrested Wednesday for holding an alleged brothel owner known as Aunty Shamim.
Authorities are holding negotiations with the school administrators to hand over the woman to the police but they are "being unreasonable," the officer said on condition of anonymity because he was unauthorized to make comments to the media.
"They have taken the law into their hands," the officer said.
Ghazi confirmed that some of Jamia Hafsa's students had abducted Shamim in a raid of the alleged brothel late Tuesday, along with "a few" of her employees. He said Shamim had promised to close the brothel, but they still had her locked up in a room at the seminary.
The Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad and associated seminaries have a reputation for preaching hardline Islam and links to an outlawed militant group. Their defiance of the government has exposed its failure to regulate Pakistan's thousands of religious schools, even in the federal capital.
Since January, hundreds of its female seminary students have staged a sit-in at a municipal children's library next door, to protest authorities' demolition of mosques that have encroached on public land. They are refusing to vacate the library until all the mosques are rebuilt.