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Pakistan: Christian Professor Accused of Blasphemy, May Face Death Penalty Like Mother-of-Five Asia Bibi

( [email protected] ) Nov 18, 2014 01:35 PM EST

Pakistan
Pakistani demonstrators protest the country's harsh blasphemy laws, which are often used to persecute religious minorities. (Photo: AsiaNews.it)

A Christian professor was arrested for blasphemy in Lahore, Pakistan, and has been accused of desecrating the name of the Prophet Mohammad, the same charge brought against Christian mother Asia Bibi, who is currently facing the death penalty.

According to Fides News Agency, Qaiser Ayub, a computer science professor, had been a fugitive for close to three years after hiding from police when accused of writing blasphemous comments on his blog.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, national director of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development, said that despite the threat of arrest, the professor had been teaching recently at a school in Lahore, which triggered the police warrant.

"We also request prayer for him," Gill said, noting that his group will be providing legal assistance.

Currently, Ayub is being held at a police station in the town of Talagang in Punjab's Chakwal District.

The allegations brought against Ayub are the same ones brought against Christian mother of 5 Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being accused of blaspheming against Islam by a group of Muslim women.

In response, the American Center for Law and Justice has started a petition asking the U.S. government to stop sending foreign aid to Pakistan.

"We must stop sending billions of our taxpayer dollars to nations that persecute Christians. It's that simple. Not one more dime for persecution. Cut off American foreign aid to any country that persecutes Christians," states the petition, addressing Congress and President Barack Obama.

"As a wave of persecution sweeps across the Middle East - and Christians flee for their lives - it's time for the money to stop," it adds. "Already there is growing support for basic human rights and basic common sense on Capitol Hill."

Earlier this month, a Christian couple who was killed and set on fire by a Muslim mob allegedly for desecrating the Quran. However, media reports have revealed that the origins of this incident actually lay in a financial dispute between the couple and their employer, a local brick kiln owner.

"This incident appears to be yet another tragic example of how the social environment created by Pakistan's blasphemy laws allows personal disputes and vendettas to be pursued under religious pretexts, encouraging mob violence," says Peter Prove, director of the World Council of Church's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

"Christians in Pakistan are not safe as long as the current blasphemy laws exists. They are just misused to persecute them."

According to BBC News, "scores" of Christians  have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy since 1990.

 

The offense, which often carries life in prison or the death penalty as punishment, has been widely used to target religious minorities, which account for 50 percent of those accused of blasphemy.

Since 2002, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on the administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern," a step that would make it eligible for sanctions or other measures intended to prod governments to stop violating religious freedom.