Relaymedia

Muslim Leaders in Pakistan Offer $10,000 for Body of Christian Boy Falsely Accused of Blasphemy

( [email protected] ) May 12, 2016 01:41 PM EDT
A young Christian boy in Pakistan charged with blasphemy is now running for his life, as Muslim leaders have offered a $10,000 reward for his body after he was falsely accused of viewing anti-Muslim material on his phone.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws do not discriminate: scores of Christian men, women and children have been imprisoned after "blaspheming" the Muslim prophet Mohammad. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

A young Christian boy in Pakistan charged with blasphemy is now running for his life, as Muslim leaders have offered a $10,000 reward for his body after he was falsely accused of viewing anti-Muslim material on his phone. 

According to Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an organization seeking to help persecuted Christians in Pakistan, Imran is currently in hiding after Muslims accused him of watching an anti-Islamic video on this phone, a crime punishable by death.

"I cannot believe that such things are still happening in this world," said Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS. "Such treatment towards Pakistani Christians is a slap on the face of the Punjab and central government, and to all those who never tire of telling the world that minorities are protected and enjoying equal rights in the country."

Christians in the boy's village in Punjab, Pakistan have been given three options by Muslim leaders: convert to Islam, leave the village forever, or hand over Imran so he can be burnt.

Last month, one of Imran's Muslim work colleagues, Bilal, took the boy's phone and looked up the anti-Islamic videos on YouTube. When Imran asked Bilal to return his phone, Bilal slapped on his face and accused Imran of watching anti-Islamic lectures of a Christian Pastor on YouTube.

Imran was beaten and locked away, but was released by members of the local Catholic church. Three days later, Imran discovered that Bilal had explained the situation to Muslim scholars who had issued a religious decree for Imran to be killed.

The decree, issued from the local mosque, encouraged Muslims to impose a boycott on Christians who refused to turn over the boy. Shopkeepers have stopped selling food to resident Christians and a local businessman offered 10 lakh Pak-rupees (nearly $10,000) for his body, prompting Imran to flee.

Saeed has condemned Pakistan's blasphemy laws and argued that local Muslims had "no right to impose any of these conditions".

"I don't understand how watching a video on the internet can be criminalized as an act of blasphemy. And if this is blasphemy then all those who watch this video or any other videos against Islam have committed blasphemy and everyone should be arrested, charged and punished under the blasphemy law," he said.

"I believe this is not an act of blasphemy and if people still think Imran has committed blasphemy then he should be punished according to the law," he added. "No one has any right to take the law into their own hands, harass local Christians, threaten them, burn Imran alive or force Christians to convert to Islam or leave the village."

Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws, which carry life in prison or the death penalty as punishment,  often target Christians, which make up just 1.6% of the country's population. According to BBC News, "scores" of Christians have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy since 1990.  

"Such conditions from lay people make a mockery of the law," said Saeed. "The Government of Pakistan must take this matter seriously, provide protection to the local Christians, and those who are breaking the law should be dealt according to the law."

Pakistan, the world's second largest Muslim country, is ranked #6 on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians, and has received the maximum score in the violence category.