A Christian man has been sentenced to death in Pakistan for sharing material on the WhatsApp messaging service that ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad.
Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and insults against the Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. Most cases are filed against members of minority communities.
Nadeem James, 35, was arrested in July 2016, accused by a friend of sharing material ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad on the Whatsapp messaging service.
Lawyer Riaz Anjum said his client intended to appeal against the verdict, passed on Thursday by a sessions court in the town of Gujrat.
There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dorm debate about religion.
Police arrested over 20 students and some faculty members in connection with the killing.
Since then, parliament has considered adding safeguards to the blasphemy laws, a groundbreaking move given the emotive nature of the issue.
There have been at least 67 murders over unproven allegations of blasphemy since 1990, according to figures from a research center and independent records kept by Reuters.
And in 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after he called for the blasphemy laws to be reformed.
Taseer’s killer, executed last year, has been hailed as a martyr by religious hardliners.
I guess Mohammad didn’t have a sense of humor. Certainly most of his followers don’t.
All religions have strictures against blasphemy, but I can’t think of any religion except Islam that makes you pay with your life for transgressing. Of course, the Catholic Church used to execute blasphemers. But the executions ended hundreds of years ago.
When you have an 8th-century outlook on the world, your justice system and culture reflect that. At that time, religion and government were interchangeable — just as they are today in Pakistan. The government uses religion to control the population and religious leaders use the government to enforce their rules. This is the way it is in many — not all — countries with a majority Muslim population.
There is no incentive to reform a system that works so well for those in power. We can expect more outrages like this from Pakistan and other countries that embrace political Islam and its oppression.