A 17 year-old Christian boy has been arrested for sharing blasphemous content on Facebook. The alleged incident, led to a violent mob drove Masih’s family and other Christians in the village to flee their homes.
Patras Masih, an illiterate cleaner from Tair village in Lahore is said to have posted images of himself standing on a Mosque’s dome – considered deeply disrespectful in Islam. The disputed incident dates back to January, and it is believed that the posting occurred at a time when Masih’s phone had gone missing – his supporters saying the photo had been mocked up during this time.
The claim that Masih had posted blasphemous content was pursued online by a local cleric. Finally, after one month, a mob assembled outside his home – thought to be led by supporters of the radical Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaiak.
They threw bricks and threatened to burn Christian homes if Masih wasn’t arrested, calling for his beheading. In the end, the boy presented himself to local police and is currently in custody. Masih’s father has is also said to have handed himself in, following the riots.
A fact-finding team from CLAAS, led by its director Joseph Francis, visited the area shortly after the initial incident. They found the entire Christian community had deserted their homes. Mr Francis also managed to speak to family members, offering them sanctuary and legal assistance.
“This is a textbook case of the blasphemy laws being misused,” remarked Nasir Saeed, UK Director for CLAAS. “This has been whipped up out of nothing by political extremists with an anti-Christian agenda. The incident should indeed provoke outrage, but only against such a cynical act of manipulation by extremists. It is precisely incidents like this that highlight why the blasphemy laws are currently not fit for purpose.”
“The influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated.”...
- Pope Emeritus Benedict
“There is a very clear sense that people are nervous about the misuse of the blasphemy law, as a tool of politics or “…a mob thing […] ” he added, flanked by two Pakistani bishops. He earlier told reporters: “Equality under the law is important…”...
- Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
“The law for punishing blasphemy against the Prophet (sws) that is invoked in Pakistan has no foundation in the Qur'ān or Hadith.”...
- Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Renowned Quranic scholar & Islamic modernist theologist
“The problem is not so much the idea of a law against blasphemy, as about a law whose penalty is so severe and whose practice gives so much scope for allowing people to settle private scores.” ...
- Dr Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury