A Christian couple was sentenced to death in Pakistan on Friday reportedly for committing "blasphemy" via text messages. Lawyers said they will appeal the ruling and fight for the man and woman who are said to be illiterate.
"We are seriously concerned. Cases like these are common and cause great suffering. We continue to pray, while the issue remains unresolved," Fr. Aloysius Roy, Superior of the Pakistani province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, told Fides News Agency in a report on Monday.
"We express our solidarity, but Christians keep a low profile, because life is full of difficulties and dangers, and for us the first commandment is to survive. Christians are afraid and they move with extreme caution." more >>
Pakistan's opposition parties protested and international human rights groups condemned the death penalty given to a Christian sanitation worker about a year after he was accused of blasphemy.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party and the Pakistan People's Party on Friday strongly protested in parliament the sentencing of 27-year-old Sawan Masih, who was convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad while conversing with a Muslim friend in the eastern Lahore city's Joseph Colony in March last year.
Ghulam Murtaza Chaudhry, additional session judge of Lahore, sentenced Masih to death Thursday, saying he "must be hanged and fined," Reuters quoted the lawyer of the accused, Nameem Shakir, as saying. The sentencing includes a fine of Rs.200,000 (roughly U.S. $2,050). more >>
A 70-year-old British man has been sentenced to death by the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi which found him guilty of insulting Islam and committing blasphemy by claiming to be a prophet. The court rejected claims that he is mentally ill.
"[Muhammad] Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge," Javed Gul, a government prosecutor, told Agence France-Presse news agency.
The British man, who is from Edinburgh, Scotland, was reportedly arrested in 2010 after writing several letters claiming to be a prophet. His lawyers argued that he has a history of mental illness, but a medical panel rejected the evidence. more >>
Asia Noreen Bibi, the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010, thanked Pope Francis and all the churches praying for her and credited them with her survival after four-and-a-half years in prison.
"I am very grateful to all the churches that are praying for me and fighting for my freedom. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me," Bibi wrote in a Christmas letter to Pope Francis. While Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010, the verdict must be upheld by a superior court, and many petitions have protested her imprisonment.
Bibi lamented the fact that, while many people have spoken and fought for her, it is "to no avail." Even though she is still in prison, she said, "I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible." Bibi wrote that in her dire situation, "Only God will be able to free me." more >>
The issue of Pakistan's blasphemy laws has always been alive in the public discourse and an attraction for the media not only in Pakistan, but internationally, too. Now it will be reverberating even more around the corridors of power after the Federal Sharia Court of Pakistan ordered the Pakistani government to remove the option of life imprisonment for blasphemy. This means that crimes of blasphemy should be punished exclusively by the death sentence.
The court, which has the power to determine whether any law is unislamic, reasons that any punishment other than death for blasphemy is not lawful. This was the conclusion of a five-member bench headed by Justice Fida Hussain, which was formed to explore this question after a contempt of court petition was filed by lawyer Hashmat Habib on December 4. The bench based this conclusion on a previous decision by the court in 1990 determining that life imprisonment should be deleted on the grounds that any blasphemy act is not acceptable and the blasphemer is liable to be punished by death.
Habib's complaint was that the 1990 decision had not been implemented and so the court should now issue orders to rectify this, as well as initiate court proceedings against those who have hitherto failed to implement the decision. Coincidentally it was Ismail Qureshi, another lawyer and writer of the book, Blasphemy law (Urdu language), who submitted a petition to the court to remove the alternative punishment of life imprisonment. The court ruled in October 1990 that the alternative punishment should be deleted as it was repugnant to Islam and the government was directed to add a provision to the effect that any act of blasphemy upon other prophets should also be punishable with death. more >>
A British doctor in Pakistan was arrested and charged for allegedly "posing as a Muslim" after he was videotaped reading aloud from the Quran.
Masood Ahmad, a British doctor running a clinic in the eastern city of Lahore, was arrested last month after two men secretly videotaped him reading aloud verses from the Quran. The men had pretended to be sick and visited the clinic. After receiving their medication, they asked Ahmad to tell them about his religious beliefs as a member of the minority Ahmadi sect.
Members of the minority Ahmadi sect in Pakistan face widespread discrimination as they are considered under the country's constitution to be non-Muslims. This is because members of the Ahmadi sect consider the religion's founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be a prophet, which contradicts the main teaching of Islam that Muhammad was the last prophet. more >>