Pakistani Christian on the Run Charged with Blasphemy Over WhatsApp Poem

“iOS homescreen” by Jan Persiel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“iOS homescreen” by Jan Persiel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Christian man whose WhatsApp poem insulted Muhammad is charged with blasphemy, punishable by death.

In Pakistan, insulting Islam is punishable by death. Last week, Yasir Bashir, a Pakistani Muslim, registered a complaint at his local police station in the town of Sarai Alamgir, located in the Gujrat district in the north of the Punjab province of Pakistan, that his Christian friend, Nadeem James, sent him a poem on WhatsApp. The poem contained derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad and other holy figures in Islam. The police registered a case against James on blasphemy charges. However, before they could make an arrest, James fled his home. As of now, he is on the run, and the police are searching for him.

Pakistani Christian on the Run Charged with Blasphemy Over WhatsApp Poem[/tweetthis]

Sarai Alamgir is located 100 miles north of Lahore, the capital city of the province of Punjab. It is a very conservative town. Fearing mob violence and vigilante attacks that could arise over the allegations of blasphemy against James, the local police took his relatives into protective custody and increased security in the Christian neighborhoods. In 2014, a Christian couple was lynched and burned alive by a mob in the Punjab province, after accusing them of desecrating the Koran. Later it was found out that the accusation was false.

According to Pakistan Today, a Pakistani English-language daily newspaper, James's brother Shaukat Masih told them that, his brother, an illiterate, who does not know how to use WhatsApp was framed by Bashir and Hafiz Tariq, a local prayer leader. When the police raided James's home, there were no male members present, so they took the two female members of the family who were there in the house. Sanaullah Dhillon, the City Police Station House Officer, denied this. However, later the Gujrat District Police Office's (DPO) admitted to Pakistan Today that they did take the two females, but to place them in protective custody.

It was in the 1980s that the blasphemy laws were established in Pakistan. At first, the punishment was just a 3-year imprisonment, for making derogatory remarks against Islam. Then, in 1982, another clause was added that made the punishment to life imprisonment. In 1986, yet another clause was added that stated that any blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad would be punishable by death or imprisonment for life. Since 1987, 21 Hindus, 187 Christians, 494 Ahmedis, and 633 Muslims were charged under the blasphemy law, according to an NCJP (National Commission for Justice and Peace) report.

According to critics, the blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores, and to persecute minority faiths. Pakistan is the second most populous Muslim-majority country.


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