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Islamic clerics in Pakistan, a longtime U.S. ally, are demanding that their government impose a mandatory death penalty for “blasphemy” against Islam and its prophet, instead of a prison sentence.

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Roznama Nai Baat in Pakistan reported the move by some 150 clerics in Sunni Tehreek Ulema, a Muslim organization.

“The demand by the federal shariat court to end the life sentence for committing blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad was endorsed, on an appeal from Sunni Tehreek chief Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, by the Sunni Tehreek Ulema Board’s 150 clerics and muftis [who are qualified to issue fatwas or decrees],” the report said.

Pakistan is a nuclear power that has worked openly with the U.S. on counter-terrorism.

The report cited Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, a cleric who expressed concern that the issue has been put on the shelf for 23 years amid international pressure.

“Foreign dictation in the matters of Islamic law will not be accepted,” he said.

Author and blogger Pamela Geller, who specializes in the threat of Islam to Western society, commented that life sentences for critics of Islam is “apparently too soft a punishment.”

She said nobody should be fooled by so-called moderate Muslims who insist Islam can be reformed.

“Reform or reinterpretation is a crime in Islam – it is the crime of hypocrisy. Also punishable by death.”

WND has reported lately on several confrontations in Pakistan over its controversial blasphemy laws. Recently, Pakistani preacher Adnan Masih asked to be held in jail voluntarily after he was threatened by the outlawed terrorist group Jamaad ud Dawa.

Members of the group filed a blasphemy charge against the 25-year-old teacher and preacher, alleging he blasphemed Muhammad in a book sold in his brother’s store. Angry mobs surrounding the courthouse forced the cancellation of Masih’s most recently scheduled court appearance.

International Christian Concern Asia specialist William Stark said he’s not so sure that jail is safer for the street preacher.

“Whether he is safer in police custody or in hiding is debatable. In hiding, Adnan could be discovered by extremists and murdered. In police custody, he will be held in jail away from the extremists in Pakistan’s society but will be exposed to the extremists that are in the prison system,” Stark said.

But Stark added that Masih had another reason for turning himself over to police custody. Police were holding his brother, the Christian shop owner who sold the book that prompted the trouble, and another relative.

WND also reported on the March fire that destroyed more than 200 Christian-owned houses in Joseph Colony, an enclave in Lahore.

The rioting followed the arrest and detention of Joseph Colony resident Sawan Masih. Masih allegedly got into a heated religious discussion in a restaurant, and a Muslim threatened to accuse him of blasphemy under Pakistan’s notorious law.

Former PLO and Muslim Brotherhood operative Walid Shoebat leads a human rights group that works to rescue people accused of blasphemy.

In another case, Rimsha Masih, a young Pakistani, was falsely accused of burning a Quran. She and her family were granted asylum and relocated to Ontario.

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