A 26-year-old Christian from Gujrat in northern Pakistan has been forced to leave his home after it was claimed he sent “blasphemous” messages insulting Muhammed via WhatsApp. Defiling the name of Muhammad is a crime with a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan. Following the allegation, which was brought to the police by the mullah (local mosque leader), a Muslim mob gathered outside Nadeem James’ home and threatened to attack his family unless the local police formally registered the case. The police complied and then arrested Nadeem’s two sisters who at the time of writing remain in custody, along with Nadeem’s 18-month-old nephew.
Fear of reprisals from local Muslims has reportedly led many Christian residents in the town to evacuate their homes. Attacks against whole Christian communities in Pakistan following the accusation of blasphemy against one of its members are not unusual. In 2013, hundreds of believers in Lahore were left homeless when a Muslim mob ransacked Joseph Colony in Badami Bagh, in violence incited in response to a false blasphemy allegation. More recently, in May 2016, the Christian community in Chak 44, a village in the Punjab province, were left struggling for food after local Muslims refused to buy from or sell to them after a Christian man was accused of blasphemy.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” law (Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code) remains on the country’s statute books, despite widespread misuse of the law, which has been repeatedly used to settle personal scores and victimise minorities, with Muslim judges tending to give greater weight to the word of the Muslim accuser. In April, following a four-day protest by Muslim extremists in Islamabad, the Pakistani government reiterated that it had no plans to amend the law, or to pardon anyone already convicted of “blasphemy”.