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Christian Boy Accused of Defaming Muhammad in Pakistan

Washington, D.C. (October 12, 2012) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian boy was accused by neighbors of blasphemy in Karachi, Pakistan for allegedly forwarding a text message that insulted Islam on Tuesday. The following day, a Muslim mob ransacked the boy's home and set fire to household furniture. The case follows the arrest of a Christian girl for allegedly burning pages of the Quran in August. Though the girl was released from prison in early September, she is scheduled to appear before a juvenile court on blasphemy charges later this month.

Ryan Stanten, a 16-year-old Christian boy from Karachi, Pakistan, was charged with blasphemy on October 10 for sending a text message on his cell phone that allegedly defamed the Muslim prophet Muhammad, police officials said. Ryan reportedly told local religious leaders on Tuesday that he forwarded the message without reading its content. An angry mob broke into Ryan's home the next day, burning furniture and other household belongings. Ryan and his mother, Rubina, were in the house but were unharmed.

"After people's anger, a police team reached there. They calmed them down, saved the house from further damage and registered a blasphemy case against the boy," Shahid Hayat, a senior police official, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

There are conflicting reports about Ryan's whereabouts. While BBC reported that the boy was arrested and is being held in custody, police official Hayat told AFP that the boy and his mother "vanished" after the mob raided their home.

Ryan's case follows similar charges filed against 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl with mental disabilities, who was arrested for allegedly burning pages of the Quran in Islamabad on August 16. Rimsha was released on bail on September 7 days after four witnesses testified that Khalid Jadoon Chisti, a local imam, had planted the burned pages in Rimsha's possession. Three of the four witnesses, however, recanted their statements this month at Chisti's bail hearing. Rimsha is scheduled to appear in a juvenile court on October 17.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "Pakistan's oppressive blasphemy law has gotten so out of hand that it can no longer be controlled. Police claimed they were forced to register blasphemy charges against Ryan, a Christian boy from Karachi, in order to calm an enraged mob that was ransacking the boy's home. It's possible that if the police had not intervened in time, Ryan and his mother could have been killed. The boy's case highlights the very problem of Pakistan's blasphemy laws: while officials claim these laws grant religious harmony through uniformity, in practice they do just the opposite by providing cover for radical Muslims to carry out personal vendettas against religious minorities. The laws have done nothing more than embolden extremists to commit violent acts against perceived blasphemers. Christians will never be secure in Pakistan until strong action is taken and the precedent is set that anti-Christian violence, under any circumstances, will not be tolerated. Ryan has become Pakistan's latest victim of abused blasphemy legislation. No child should fear being attacked or killed by a mob simply because they are a member of a religious minority community."

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