04/21/2008, 00.00

Blasphemy: three Filipinos in jail in Sharjah, and one Turk faces death in Gedda

The three are accused, in the Emirates, of having ripped a page out of the Qur'an, according to an employee of the company that has fired them. In Saudi Arabia, the appeal process has opened for a barber condemned to death for blasphemy.

Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Three Filipino workers are in prison in Sharjah, accused of blasphemy for ripping a page out of the Qur'an and scribbling on it.  According to a local newspaper, The National, the witness against them is an employee of the company for which the three worked, and a controversy was underway with the head of the company, which ended with the firing of the three and of seven more of their colleagues.  The workers the saw their work permits revoked, an action that leads to the expulsion of foreigners.

The affair, which took place in Sharjah - one of the most conservative cities in the United Arab Emirates - was confirmed for the newspaper by an official at the Philippine consulate, and brings back into the headlines the question of the crime of blasphemy in the Arabian peninsula, precisely when an appeal is being lodged in Saudi Arabia over the case of a Turkish barber condemned to death under the accusation of having cursed God and the prophet Mohammed. According to the testimony of two witnesses, the event took place inside the barber shop in Gedda.  In this case, the accused has admitted to the crime, but is trying to avoid a death sentence on the basis of his ignorance of local culture and laws.

But there is suspicion over the affair of the Filipinos, who have not been charged in court since their arrest.  In Muslim countries where there are specific laws on blasphemy, in fact, accusations often have their true origin in personal animosity or in economic questions.

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