Pakistani Christian man faces blasphemy charge punishable by death over Facebook post

A Pakistani soldier keeps guard at the Friendship Gate, crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, March 7, 2017. | REUTERS/Saeed Ali Achakzai/Files

A Christian man charged with blasphemy for making a theological argument on Facebook that Muslims deemed insulting toward the Islamic prophet Muhammad is now facing a potential death sentence for the post. 

The London-based Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, an interdenominational aid agency serving persecuted Christians in Muslim-majority Pakistan, reports that Sohail Masih in the Nowshera Virkan in Punjab province was arrested on Aug. 5.

Following a protest by a crowd of enraged Muslims who heard about Masih’s comment online, police officially charged Masih under sections 295-A and 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code.

Section 295-C prohibits the use of derogatory remarks toward Islam or Muhammad and makes violations punishable by death. It is the same charge leveled against Christian mother Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death and spent over a decade in prison before her acquittal in 2018. 

“This is not the first case of its kind, and several Christians like Imran Nadeem, Nabeel Masih and Patras, Kaleem and Qamar David [died in Jail] have been charged with blasphemy for sharing or having blasphemous contents either on their phone or on their computers,” CLAAS-UK Director Nasir Saeed said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.

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“It is difficult to prevent the abuse of social media platforms like WhatsApp when others can easily harass Christians and ‘plant evidence’ on them,” he added. “An example: if someone shares blasphemous content to a Christian’s page, this could result in blasphemy charges against the Christian, even if the Christian did not directly interact with the content.”

According to the Union of Catholic Asia News, Masih’s Facebook comment stems from a discussion online about the Islamic sacrifice tradition of Eid-al-Adha, which took place on July 30-31. 

“It is not possible that the blood of goats and bulls can wash away sins,” Masih was quoted as writing in a post. “The incident of Miraj [an Islamic belief that Muhammad ascended to Heaven to talk with the prophets] is based on a lie.”

Isra and Miraj is observed annually to honor the Islamic prophet’s nighttime journey from Mecca to a faraway mosque and Muslims’ belief that he ascended to Heaven and was shown Hell. 

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