After a 15-year-old boy cut off his own hand believing he had committed blasphemy, the iman of a mosque in Pakistan responsible for the accusation has been arrested and accused of inciting violence. However, the boy's family have said they are "proud" of their son for his "devotional" act.
According to a report from the New York Times, Anwar Ali, the son of a poor laborer, was attending an evening prayer gathering at the mosque in the village of Khanqah when Shabir Ahme asked those in attendance who did not love the Muslim prophet Muhammad to raise their hands.
Authorities said Ali misheard the question and raised his hand, believing that Ahmed had asked who did love Muhammad.
The Times reports that the imam then pointed at Ali and said he was a "blasphemer who was liable to be killed."
The crowd quickly followed suit, yelling, "Don't you love your prophet?" as he fled the mosque. Believing he had sinned, the boy returned home, cut off his right hand with a scythe, and presented it to the imam.
Despite the imam's arrest, the boy and his family maintain that the religious leader is blameless.
"We are lucky that we have this son who loves Prophet Muhammad that much," the boy's father told the Times. "We will be rewarded by God for this in the eternal world."
Ali echoed such a sentiment, telling the BBC, "Why should I feel any pain or trouble in cutting off the hand that was raised against the Holy Prophet? I didn't feel any pain when I chopped it off so why would I feel any now? The hand that commits blasphemy should be chopped off."
The report reveals that Ali is being heralded among villagers, many of whom are illiterate, as a religious hero for his "devotional act."
Reads a particularly disturbing portion of the report: "Farooq, a man in his mid-thirties, was one of those who came to pay his respects. Appearing at [the boy's] home, he took the boy's left hand, kissed it and pressed it against his forehead. Following local custom, he also placed some cash in the pocket of the teenager he hails as a hero."
"I heard that a boy sacrificed his own hand for the love of our Prophet. I came here to meet him," the report quotes Farooq as saying."The boy's gesture to show his love for the Prophet is unmatchable. I'm here to encourage him and to pay homage."
The BBC notes that the disturbing situation highlights the extreme sensitivity around the issue of blasphemy in Pakistan, where the merest accusation that blasphemy has occurred has the power to arouse lynching or mob violence.
Some, like Washington Post contributor Fareed Zakaria, claim that the idea that Islam requires that insults against the prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a "creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda."
Others, like Jihad Watch director and author Robert Spencer, argue that in reality, there is much support in the Qur'an and Sunnah for the death penalty for blasphemy.
He cites in particular a portion of the book which reads, in part, "Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment." (5:33)
During a recent interview with CBN, Mona Walter, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, emphasized that Allah is truly a god of violence who requires the blood of his followers.
"Mohammed, he was immoral. He was a bloodthirsty man. He was terrible man, and Muslims can read that in his biography -- what he did to Jews, how he raped women, how he killed people. I mean, he killed everyone who didn't agree with him," she told CBN.
Walter said that the concept of, "love your enemy" was at first "very strange" to her because, "in Islam, it is 'kill your enemy.' 'Kill your enemy and anyone who refuses Islam.'"
She contrasted the violence propagated by followers of Islam to the grace and love shown by the followers of Jesus Chist: "Jesus Christ was all about love and peace and forgiveness and tolerance, and for some reason, I needed that."