Two men, an Illiterate evangelist and a prominent Pakistani Muslim accused under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws”

 

A local evangelist in Lahore, Pakistan, is being accused under the country’s “blasphemy laws” after pages of the Quran with his name written on them were found strewn on a street. Babu Shahbaz Masih – an illiterate 41-year-old father of three – was detained by police on 30 December.

Babu Shahbaz Masih
Babu Shahbaz Masih

Haji Nadeem registered the complaint, claiming that torn Quranic pages were found in the road as he and his companions were on their way to mosque for Friday prayers. On a hundred of the pages were written the name of Babu Shahbaz Masih in blue marker. Police immediately detained Babu Shahbaz Masih, together with his wife and daughter, for their own safety. A large number of security personnel were deployed to the area to ward off trouble.

Haji Nadeem, a local Muslim shopkeeper and politician, is apparently jealous of Babu Shahbaz Masih’s brother, another shopkeeper, and is reported to be resentful of Christians for not supporting him in recent elections. There also appears to be ill-feeling towards Babu Shahbaz Masih by a local pir called Baba Gujjar, who lives on the street where the torn pages were found. A pir is the South Asian term for a Muslim spiritual guide in the Sufi tradition (mystical Islam) to whom Muslims go for healing and other requests for divine intervention. Baba Gujjar has been losing followers because many Muslims instead went for healing to Babu Shahbaz Masih’s home where he held special prayer meetings for healing. Personal grudges lie behind many “blasphemy” accusations in Pakistan.

Under Pakistani law, there is a mandatory life sentence in prison for desecrating the Quran. Local Muslims are amongst those who have voiced support for Babu Shahbaz Masih, affirming his innocence.

Christmas Facebook message from prominent Pakistani Muslim brings accusations of “hate speech” and “blasphemy”

A complaint of “hate speech” has been made by his fellow Muslims against Shaan Taseer, son of Salmaan Taseer, the former Punjab governor who was murdered in January 2011, and a formal case registered against him. Muslim hardliners, not content with this, are pressing for him to be charged with “blasphemy” which carries a death sentence.

Salmaan Taseer, father of Shaan, a Muslim who was murdered for speaking out on behalf of Christians and against the blasphemy laws(
Salmaan Taseer, father of Shaan, a Muslim who was murdered for speaking out on behalf of Christians and against the blasphemy laws(
Salmaan Taseer) / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The complaints come in response to a Christmas message which Shaan Taseer posted on his Facebook page. In the video message he requested prayer for minorities exploited under the “blasphemy laws”, laws which he described as “inhumane”.

Shaan Taseer’s father, Salmaan, was shot dead by his own bodyguard for supporting Aasia Bibi (a Christian mother sentenced to death under these laws) and calling for reforms to the blasphemy laws.

A complaint of “hate speech” was registered against Shaan Taseer on 30 December (a crime punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment and/or a fine), but the Islamist group, Sunni Tehreek, are pushing for the police to charge him with defiling Muhammad’s name, a crime that carries a mandatory death penalty, threatening mass protests if the police fail to charge him. Shaan says he has received “credible death threats” from people who inspired his father’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri.

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