Another Christian Accused of Committing Blasphemy in Pakistan
7/12/16 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that another Christian youth was booked under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws in Gujrat, an ancient city of Pakistan located between two famous rivers, Jhelum and Chenab, on July 10, 2016.
ICC sources confirmed the incident upon the condition of anonymity.
“A 27-year-old, Nadeem James, resident of Yaqoobabad, a small town, in district Gujrat was alleged for sending blasphemous text messages to a Muslim man using ‘WhatsApp,’” the source told ICC.
“James was alleged for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad and other holy Personages of Islam by Yasir Bashir, a Muslim living in the same neighborhood. The city police has registered FIR # 301/16 against James under Sections 295 C and 298 A of Pakistan Penal Code,” the source said.
The source told ICC that, “James had friendship with a Muslim girl of the same locality, however Muslims of the neighborhood did not like [the] friendship of a Christian man with a Muslim girl, therefore Yasir Bashir, a conservative Muslim and the complainant against the Christian youth, somehow managed using James’ cell phone to send blasphemous text messages to his own cell phone and blamed James for it.”
However, the source did not confirm this information and doubted that it was true. James and Bashir are friends from their childhood.
The issue was raised on July 10, 2016 when Bashir informed the clerics of the local mosque and Islamic seminary about the blasphemous text messages. A mob of hundreds of Muslims gathered to attack and set fire to Christian’s house.
However, police reportedly controlled the mob and managed to rescue the Christian families. Since then, James and his brother Shahbaz remained in hiding until this report.
Police then arrested two of James’ young sisters named Najma and Samreen, which is illegal according Tahir Naveed, a Christian lawyer.
Contrary to popular reports and social media within Pakistan, the anonymous source confirmed with ICC that the girls are not facing torture by the police.
Dozens of Christian families in the neighboring area fled from their houses for fear of being attacked by religious groups, the anonymous source added.
Christians Should Be Protected
While speaking with ICC, Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, an outspoken advocate for minority rights and Chairman of Pakistan Minority Alliance, said, “Government should take affirmative action against those who promote hate speeches and those who instigate religious emotions of the citizens against minority groups”.
“It looks like setting personal scores against a Christian youth,” he added.
Naveed warned authorities, calling this incident “religious terrorism,” which he said would damage society. He added that religious extremism in the media, schools, and in society “should be controlled.”
In response, local authorities have deputized police personnel at all Christian residential localities, schools, churches, and other church-run institutions in the district for security reasons.
Still, Christians are living in fear after the incident.
“Although mostly, Christians are living in their houses, however one could easily smell the threat to their lives and properties after a blasphemy allegation against a Christian,” the anonymous source commented.
“The Nadeem James case highlights a continual struggle for Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan who face the constant threat of arbitrary blasphemy allegations, sometimes trumped up in cases of personal offense. It brings into focus again and again the need for Pakistan to review its blasphemy laws because they bring only chaos, injustice, distrust, and mob rule. Religious minorities live in particular fear that their identity may just bring about a random allegation that they have insulted Islam, even if they have not, and this climate of fear adds to the struggle of persecution for Christians in Pakistan,” ICC’s Regional Manager Troy Augustine said.