ASIA/PAKISTAN - Two Christian teenagers in prison for alleged blasphemy, a Muslim religious killed

Saturday, 20 May 2023 human rights   blasphemy   religious minorities  

[Foto di Syed Aoun Abbas su Unsplash]

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Two Christian teenagers from Lahore, Adil Baber, 18, and Simon Nadeem, 12, were arrested and charged with "blasphemy" under article 295-C of the Penal Code yesterday, May 19 , by order of the court. A police officer, Zahid Sohail, filed a complaint against them, saying he saw and heard them playing and calling a puppy dog "Muhammad Ali".
Both boys' families said they did not have a dog. Samina Nadeem, Simon's mother, explains that it was a misunderstanding, because the boys were talking about "Naswar" (a chewy paste, popular in Pakistan, ed) whose brand is called "Muhammad Ali" . The policeman, who was passing by, started beating them and calling people out, accusing them of blasphemy. Before long, a crowd gathered at the scene. "I started praying that the violence would not break out", said Simon's father. The two boys were taken into custody to avoid lynching. A first information report has been filed against the two boys. "I don't think these two boys ever thought that a passerby would overhear their conversation and accuse them of blasphemy. The misuse of blasphemy is commonplace. The lives of Christians are under constant threat," says Nasir Saeed, of the CLAAS organization.
In another case, Ishtiaq Saleem, a Christian accused of blasphemy in November 2022, remains in prison. His lawyer and family members were prevented from visiting him in prison. The man, an illiterate waste collector, is accused of spreading blasphemous content on social media. According to his wife, the images and words he posted on social media are in Arabic and the man does not know the meaning. For the charges against him, he risks life imprisonment.
Christians are not the only victims of this law: in recent weeks, a Muslim religious leader in the town of Mardan, in Khyber Pakthunkhwa province, Pakistan, was lynched by a mob after being accused of making a blasphemous allusion, during a demonstration, of former Prime Minister Imran Khan's party. Maulana Nigar Alam, 40, reportedly said, "Imran Khan is a sincere person and I respect him as the Prophet." After these remarks, considered blasphemous, the crowd burst into the shop where the man had taken refuge and lynched him to death.
Pakistan's blasphemy law (three articles of the penal code) punishes anyone who insults Islam, religious sentiment, the Prophet or the Quran, with penalties such as life imprisonment or the death penalty. The organization "Christian Solidarity Wordwide" says: "This law is exploited to do harm, it is incompatible with the fundamental right to freedom of religion and must be urgently reviewed and amended". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/5/2023)