Blasphemy charges: Mosque imam, son jailed for life

Published: January 12, 2011

Clerics warn local Christians against becoming party in the debate on blasphemy laws.

DERA GHAZI KHAN: As the controversy about the blasphemy laws heats up, a court in DG Khan has jailed the imam of a mosque and his son for life for what has been construed as blasphemy.

Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Judge Roy Ayub Marth also handed down a fine of Rs220,000 each to Muhammad Shafi, 45, and his son Muhammad Aslam, 20, on blasphemy charges.

The life term and a fine of Rs200,000 has been handed down under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which deals with the use of derogatory remarks, etc, about the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

In addition, the two have been jailed for 10 years and fined Rs10,000 each under Section 295-A of the PPC, which deals with disrespecting or intending to disrespect other religions or faiths.

Both of them have also been jailed for five years and handed down a fine of Rs10,000 per person under Section 7-G of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

A case was registered against the pair at the Daira Din Panah police station in Muzaffargarh district. They were arrested in April last year for removing a poster outside their grocery shop, advertising an Islamic event in a nearby village commemorating Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) birth anniversary.

Judge Marth’s assistant Faisal Karim told AFP by phone that  according to the prosecution, the organiser of the event Haji Phool Muhammad said that the pair had “pulled the poster down, tore it and trampled it under their feet.”

“The judge sentenced them to life imprisonment on charges of blasphemy and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs200,000 each,” Karim confirmed.

Defence counsel Arif Gurmani vowed to challenge the verdict in the high court because “it has been given in haste” and was the result of inter-faith rivalries, he said.

“Both are Muslim. The case is the result of differences between Deobandi and Barelvi sects,” he said. Haji Phool Muhammad belongs to the Barelvi sect while Shafi and Aslam belong to the Deobandi sect.

“Shafi is a practising Muslim, he is the imam of a mosque and he had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia … I am defending them because I am convinced they are not guilty of blasphemy,” he said.

On the other hand, Haji Phool Muhammad expressed dissatisfaction with the court’s ruling. Speaking to The Express Tribune, he said the accused should have been given the death sentence instead of life imprisonment.

The blasphemy law is at the centre of a controversy, with rights groups and liberals saying that the law has been used by extremists and commoners to settle personal score.

However, religious parties say the law is sacrosanct and it cannot be changed, let alone repealing it.

Clerics on Tuesday threatened their Christian compatriots “to avoid becoming a party” in the matter. The warning came a day after Pope Benedict XVI called on the Pakistani government to scrap the controversial law.

Top leaders from Deobandi and Barelvi schools of thought warned the Vatican against, what they called, interference in Islamic issues.

“Christians (living in Pakistan) must not try to become a party in the blasphemy matters,” said a statement issued on Tuesday by an umbrella organisation of over 12,000 Deobandi seminaries.

“This law guarantees the protection of not only Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) respect but also of Prophet Issa (Jesus Christ),” said the statement from the Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia (WMA).

“Minorities will be more unprotected in the absence of this law. That’s why Europe must stop issuing statements on the basis of their superficial knowledge,” it added.

Clerics from the WMA also advised the Pope against what they think is an attempt to trigger a clash of civilisations. Don’t try to push the world into chaos and confrontation, they warned the Pope.

In Lahore, Jamaat-i-Islami took out a rally against the Pope’s remarks, calling it “direct intervention” in “one of the fundamentals of Muslims’ faith.”

Separately, a top Barelvi leader said he expects Pakistani Christians to stay away from calls from outside the country to scrape the blasphemy law.

“Otherwise, there is going to be further chaos in the society,” the cleric told The Express Tribune by phone from Faisalabad and requesting anonymity.

Additional reporting by Zia Khan in Islamabad and AFP

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (40)

  • Jan 12, 2011 - 7:27AM

    Maybe more of these mullahs can charge each other under blasphemy laws and this way we can get more of them locked up?Recommend

  • Amaar
    Jan 12, 2011 - 8:30AM

    Mullahs: Minorities will be more unprotected in the absence of this law.

    Correct. The rampaging Mullahs will set alight any member of the minority if this law is repealed.Recommend

  • faraz
    Jan 12, 2011 - 8:41AM

    According to Blasphemy law, it does not matter if the accused had an intent for blasphemy or not. According to 295-C, a person may commit blasphemy through indirect action, as in this case of tearing down a poster.

    The judgement has been given according the law. The problem is with the law!Recommend

  • Kamran
    Jan 12, 2011 - 9:02AM

    Why do courts even waste their time on these things.Recommend

  • IZ
    Jan 12, 2011 - 9:14AM

    Anti-Terrorism Courts seem to spend more time on fraudulent cases than on actually trying terrorists. Why?Recommend

  • arif
    Jan 12, 2011 - 9:54AM

    Im totally at lost that why no condemnation coming in this forum against this ruling.i think the convicts r muslim so our paper tigers has nothing do to wioth this case.they r only concern only with the non muslim.wt a dubble standerd indeed!Recommend

  • faraz
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:18AM

    Muslims of 54 out of 57 muslim countries are anti-islam/liberal fascists/seculars because they dont prescribe death punishment for Blasphemy. Muslims of only 3 countries are “true muslims”. Recommend

  • Umayr Masud
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:28AM

    Wow .. is that an actual judicial verdict .. lets introduce 295-D walking on fire to prove your truthfulness Recommend

  • TKhan
    Jan 12, 2011 - 11:22AM

    Now this is getting ridiculously funny and depressing. What next, people being charged for blasphemy for hitting the cars which has some holy names written on it? Recommend

  • Tush Tush
    Jan 12, 2011 - 11:42AM

    Two men will spend their life in jail because of the blasphemy law. Their only crime was to remove an Eid Milad Un Nabi poster form their wall. For all those that support the blasphemy law…..you might have justified Taseer’s killing, you might justify Aasia’s hanging, you might even justify calling Qadri a hero, but how in God’s name will you justify this? Recommend

  • AD
    Jan 12, 2011 - 12:29PM

    at 20 his life is destroyed in the name of God.Every logic fails.Recommend

  • SK
    Jan 12, 2011 - 12:48PM

    can’t believe this is happening in my country…..
    Instead of enforcing this law in most transparent manners, seems like people are abusing it to avenge personal enmities. Shame on us for not doing anything against such wrongful implementation of an important lawRecommend

  • Jan 12, 2011 - 1:20PM

    Whoo.. a MULLAH getting a dose of his own medicine!!! lets limit the Use of this law to just the MULLAHS who think that it is not a BLACK LAW!!!Recommend

  • Azman
    Jan 12, 2011 - 2:19PM

    Does it mean anyone can forcebly occupy my house and declare it a masjid and if I protest I am commiting blasphemy ?Recommend

  • Khawaja Zeeshan
    Jan 12, 2011 - 2:19PM

    Enough of hate & crazy talk.
    Emotional people get encouraged by crazy talk!
    We’ve let the haters and bullies lead the religious, political and moral conversation for far too long.
    The national dialogue on tv has become into a ground of hate from religious leader, politicians, political anylist and TV Anchors.
    There’s no doubt he heard some of it before madness overtook him and he murdered.
    NO MORE CRAZY TALK ON NATIONAL TV. I remember days when PTV used to end their transmission by “Farman e Elahi”, Now a day Channel don’t end the day they continue with Crazy Talk 24/7, last thing we hear before going to bed is CRAZY TALK.
    Around the globe prime time is dedicated to entertainment of masses, in our country prime time television is airing hate & crazy talk, our masses & specially younger generation is picking up CRAZY TALK, and coming to their own conclusion.
    We should encourage entertaining programs during our Prime time, where younger generation can pick their role model, obviously We don’t want our next generation to be haters & bullies, give them better role models then these bullies.Recommend

  • Exijas
    Jan 12, 2011 - 2:42PM

    What if somebody pastes some poster on the doors of a house, then who is blasphemous ?
    The guy who sticks the poster or the guy who tears the poster when he accidentally opens his doors ?Recommend

  • amir
    Jan 12, 2011 - 2:44PM

    Don’t listen to the Christian West, just keep taking their money in the name of aid, because you can’t stand on your own 2 feet.

    And the POPE has been proved right just yesterday by Pakistan itself because:

    Aasia bibi got a death sentence because she is CHRISTIAN.
    Maulvi and son got life imprisonment becuaes he is cleric and MUSLIM.

    If this is not discrimination, then I dont know what is.

    More proof to the world that Pakistan has gone mad. Bring bad name to Muslims all over the world. Recommend

  • Jan 12, 2011 - 3:08PM

    Pakistan has become a laughing stock before the world. Somebody pastes a wall poster on my back with the name of the prophet, that I cannot remove and throw on the ground. A law that fools every Pakistani.

    Subhan BashaRecommend

  • Zain S
    Jan 12, 2011 - 3:20PM

    its time to kick ass or chew bubble gum. and im all out of bubble gum.Recommend

  • Jan 12, 2011 - 3:29PM

    LOL! @ Umayr!

    Article 295-D should be included in the 20th Amendment so that everyone can be happy.Recommend

  • Jan 12, 2011 - 3:38PM

    I think it is British policy ” divide and rule ” . Now we will see how religion leader of different sect cope with this verdict . Recommend

  • mushtaq
    Jan 12, 2011 - 4:37PM

    Why is everyone complaining, there is positive side to all this:

    Now instead of sending suicide bombers and men with automatic weapons, all religious parties, taliban, and all other people with personal/religious differences can accuse each other of blasphemy and lodge FIR against each other. So much less costly and so quick and efficient.

    This is why Pakistan is always ahead of everyone else. We have such great forward-thinking people. Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • someone@london
    Jan 12, 2011 - 7:56PM

    Logic says there is someting definitely wrong with the LAW. Does this make sense to those who says the law is untouchable? Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 12, 2011 - 9:16PM

    This is not at all surprising in a country where you can go to jail for throwing a Visiting Card into the dustbin.Recommend

  • Graham Martin-Royle
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:13PM

    Roflmao. If you no longer wish to be taken seriously as a country, please do carry on in this ridiculous way. Recommend

  • Em
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:27PM

    Lock them all up! These mullahs are creeps! Almost 8 out of 10 women I personally know (including myself) have been sexually assaulted by mullahs at some point in their lives, in their own homes during their lessons!! most of them were under the age of 13 when it happened. SICK!Recommend

  • Pakistani57
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:31PM

    conviction for Blasphemy can be made in absence of intention to commit Blasphemy? what ever happened to innamal a’maal -o- biniyyaat (actions should be judged in light of intention ??? Recommend

  • Noor Lodi
    Jan 12, 2011 - 10:49PM

    Blasphemy law is non-sense and must be abolished. Take a stand-now before they run us over. If we win, sanity will prevail and our generations will have a home to live in, if we loose, at least we will go down fighting to save the honor of humanity and God.

    Not taking a standing is not an option.

    Lets take out a Two Million people march against this insanity and fanatics and send a strong signal to these Mullah’s that it is not only their country. It is also ours and we will live without fear, with honor and freedom!Recommend

  • Anonymouse
    Jan 12, 2011 - 11:50PM

    This story is proof that there are indeed clarifications needed on how the blasphemy laws are to be applied and if required, there should be amendments made to them. That is the view of most conservative Pakistanis. However, where things get tricky is where secular liberals and foreigners start interfering in Islamic matters and thats where it becomes and “us” vs “them” issue where even I as an educated and well-to-do conservative will always side with even the most ultra conservative forces (that I may even disagree with) over even a mild secular liberal any day of the week. If secular liberals want this law to change, the best thing they can do is to stay away and let the non-seculars deal with it. Obviously thats not going to happen and the liberals will continue to lose ground as a result. What is unfortunate is that even many educated conservatives would like to see the backwardness and stupidity taken out of the system, but that isn’t going to happen because of liberal interference. Recommend

  • Anonymouse
    Jan 12, 2011 - 11:52PM

    @ Noor Lodhi

    “Blasphemy law is non-sense and must be abolished. Take a stand-now before they run us over. If we win, sanity will prevail and our generations will have a home to live in, if we loose, at least we will go down fighting to save the honor of humanity and God.
    Not taking a standing is not an option.
    Lets take out a Two Million people march against this insanity and fanatics and send a strong signal to these Mullah’s that it is not only their country. It is also ours and we will live without fear, with honor and freedom!”

    Ok braveheart….you firstRecommend

  • Malik
    Jan 13, 2011 - 1:46AM

    Jailed for life? What happened to the mandatory death sentence for blasphemy? Why are Mullahs not outraged now and inciting people to take law into their own hand as they were on Salman Taseer’s non-statement? Blasphemy law is just a tool to oppress political opponents. Its application is selective depending on the desired results.Recommend

  • Dr+Dev+Mishra
    Jan 13, 2011 - 3:26AM

    My dear Pak brothers, you are discussing a symptom of a very advanced disease. And you want to just treat this symptom. I invite you to go a long time before that- to prevention.

    How do you prevent this disease from happening in the first place- by elevating humanity.
    By teaching universal love, humility and introspection. Can I quote a doha from either Kabir or Rahim- I forget which- (we are still taught these pacifist thoughts in Indian schools)-

    bura jo dekhan main chala, bura na miliya koi.
    jo dil khoja apna, mujhsa bura na koi.

    The enemy within is what I refer to here, Sir.

    Shall we send some of these primary school books from India which quote great sayings from hindu and sufi saints? Would solve a lot of your problems.

    Best wishes to all in Pakistan, from Dr Dev Mishra, India and UKRecommend

  • Ali Haider
    Jan 13, 2011 - 10:46AM

    Was that poster pasted on the grocery shop without the consent of the owner? If so, the complainant should be fined and jailed as well for trespassing the territory that was not his for putting up the poster. That is un-Islamic as well. Where are we heading?Recommend

  • Daubic
    Jan 13, 2011 - 11:14AM

    Muhammad Amir, Muhammad Asif were suspended by ICC for spot fixing Charges. They had committed the blasphemy charges as they did not give respect to the players with the name Muhammad. File a case in your courts for blasphemy charges against ICC. Muhammad Amir, Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Yousuf and all these players appear on TV while playing international cricket. This is against the basic rule of Islam, as god is the only person who can create the living thing and its images. That’s why Islam even does not entertain taking pictures to a great extent. As the photographer or the cameraman take these images and live telecast these images with the names Muhammad to the whole world, this also can be charged with blasphemy charges. I would not be surprised if mullahs form Pakistan would demand this sometime in future. Also hope there would be some streets or lanes or villages or places with the name containing Muhammad in Pakistan. Charge all the people who stand / live on those land with Blasphemy charges as they are keeping the feet on the land which is having the name Muhammad associated to it.Recommend

  • Indian
    Jan 13, 2011 - 1:13PM

    man! this could be the most ridiculous friendly fire incident ever. LOLRecommend

  • Shuaib
    Jan 13, 2011 - 3:58PM

    @Daubic….were you drowsy before you wrote this?Recommend

  • Balma
    Jan 14, 2011 - 3:04AM

    If it was not depressing to read this, it would have been funny.
    ulTee aantai’n galae paR gayee’n.

    I think all of non-Muslim and even some non-believing Muslims are under threat in Pakistan. Please imagine the following scenario:

    Hate monger to Javed Masih (or Shyaam Kumar) – toum Musalman ho jao.

    JM or SK: No, I don’t want to become a Muslim.

    Hate monger: Are you telling me that the message my aa’n-hazrat brought was false.

    JM or SK: Not really, I just don’t want to be a Muslim…

    Hate monger gets really angry: Are you now telling me that aa’nHazrat was not telling the truth, was he a liar.

    JM or SK: (if they have any courage)- Well, Mr. Hate Monger, if I believed your HAzrat Muhammad was right, I would have become a Muslim.

    Hate Monger at this point can legally go to a court and file a case against these helpless people under naamoos-e-risaalat qaanoon.

    Amazing, totally amazing. Recommend

  • AT
    Jan 14, 2011 - 4:35AM

    @Daubic

    you should find yourself a lovely little cottage in the middle of the desert in saudi Recommend

  • SA
    Jan 14, 2011 - 10:02AM

    What a shame! Pakistan is certainly hell’s face on earth!Recommend

  • Oklop
    Jan 14, 2011 - 5:55PM

    My dear Pakistani friends. You must fight this madness, if you are threatened by force in order to beleive in the “right way” than that is probably wrong way.

    If you do not fight, be prepared to have every aspect of your life controlled by religious leaders, and we know that in a group of religious leaders of any religion it is usually the craziest that end up with most power. It was like that in Europe before establishment of secular governments and it seem that it will be like that in your country.

    My hopes and prayers go to you, normal everyday people trying to live a normal life.Recommend

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