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In Pakistan, a Christian man was sentenced to life in prison after a neighbor with whom he had a business disagreement accused him of desecrating the Quran, and a husband and wife were jailed for 25 years for touching Islam’s holy book without washing their hands.

The reports came from Compass Direct News, the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement and LogansWarning.com.

According to Compass, the life term was imposed on Imran Masih, 22, of Faisalabad after he was convicted under the notorious Section 295-B of Pakistan’s legal code, which bans “blasphemy” against Islam.

The conviction was based on the accusation of a rival shopkeeper who was accused of using a mosque loudspeaker to incite a mob that beat Masih.

Masih had been accused by Hajji Liaquat Abdul Ghafoor, the neighboring shopkeeper, of tearing pages out of the Quran and burning them. But Masih explained he was burning old merchandise records he had gathered while cleaning his store.

Compass reported Masih’s family members claimed Ghafoor fabricated the blasphemy case because of a business disagreement. Other shopkeepers reported to Compass they has seen the two arguing over business just a few days before the accusations.

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“Ghafoor started shouting that Masih had desecrated the Quran and made blasphemous remarks about Islam and prophet Muhammad,” said one of the shopkeepers, according to Compass. “Ghafoor spread misconceptions about Imran Masih, and a mob of angry Muslim men unaware of the facts attacked Masih and viciously beat him, looted his shop and later handed him over to police.”

An appeal is planned to the Lahore High Court.

The second episode developed, according to reports from CLAAS, when Munir Masih and Ruqqiya Bibi were accused of touching a Quran without washing their hands.

The organization said the husband and wife were convicted of “contaminating” the Quran when they touched it.

The group, which fights for the rights of the poor and marginalized in Pakistan, said the incident dated back to late 2008 when the accusations unleashed the fury of Islamic extremists. CLAAS reported local stories suggested police agents were paid to discover additional evidence that would be used to convict the couple.

Munir Masih was locked up in Kasur’s district prison, and his wife went to the women’s prison in Multan on conviction.

Their convictions also are being appealed to the Lahore High Court, officials said.

Christians in Pakistan say Islamic laws regarding the Quran and blasphemy routinely are used to harass members of other faiths. Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, a Christian member of Punjab’s legislative assembly, reported such accusations are used to settle personal grudges against Christians, Compass reported.

WND recently reported increasing incidents of attacks on Christians in Pakistan – both through criminal accusations and physical assault.


A Christian family’s home in Pakistan, burned by rampaging Muslims

International Christian Concern’s Pakistan analyst Jonathan Racho described the nation’s penal code as extreme.

“If I say that as a Christian, I don’t believe Muhammad is a prophet of God, the state of Pakistan is saying that I should be killed,” he said.

“Pakistani law limits my ability to talk about what I believe,” he explained. “The Pakistani penal code is literally against the United Nations Charter of Human Rights which says I should have freedom of religious expression.”

The ICC Pakistani analyst went a step further.

“If anyone communicates the
Gospel message in Pakistan, that person is automatically going against the
Pakistani state,” he said. “That’s what Pakistan says with their criminal code.”

Some nations are attempting to persuade Pakistan to repeal the volatile parts of the criminal code. The U. S. State Department issued a 2008 report critical of Pakistan’s human rights record, the British Foreign Office has issued statements addressing Pakistan’s human rights record and Canada also has favored strong human rights enforcement.


Burned, looted home in Korian village (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement)

According to a statement from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Pakistan also has been debating the adoption of full Islamic law. The Wilson Center’s Bhumitra Chakma and the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin see the Taliban and other groups continuing to gain influence in Pakistan’s internal operations.

Michael Rubin, the AEI’s Central Asian expert, said Pakistan quickly is becoming a “human rights cesspool.”

In Gojra, a series of attacks left 11 Christians dead and more than 40 Christian-owned homes destroyed.

WND also reported recently when the European Center for Law and Justice filed a petition with the U.N.’s special rapporteur seeking prosecutions in Pakistan for those responsible for the attacks and killings of Christians.

“We have expressed in the strongest terms possible that the Pakistani government must prosecute acts of violence based upon religion,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the organization, as well as the U.S.-based American Center for Law and Justice.

“Christians are being singled out and murdered because of their faith. Only when the Pakistani government effectively prosecutes those responsible for the acts of violence will attacks against Christians end,” he said.

The ECLJ is urging the U.N. to call on Pakistan to prosecute the perpetrators of attacks that have killed at least 60 Christians in recent years.


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