Shahbaz Babu risks the death penalty for writing his name on the pages of Islam’s sacred book even though he is completely illiterate. The charge appears to be due to a business dispute. The accused is also popular among some Muslims for his prayer meetings.
Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An evangelical Christian from the village of Kamahan, near Lahore, was arrested on charges of blasphemy and now faces the death penalty.
According to a complaint by a Muslim, Haji Nadeem, Shahbaz Babu desecrated Islam's holy book by writing his name on some pages, tearing them up and then scattering them on the street in front of a mosque where a Muslim, Peer Baba Gujjar, preaches.
According to British Pakistani Christian Association, the Christian man is completely illiterate, so he could never write his name on any pages.
Still Babu was arrested on 30 December in accordance with Article 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code. After the complaint, Babu, 41, a married father of three, was taken to the Nishtar police station.
Later, to avoid possible reprisals from Muslims and to ensure his protection, the accused was moved to the Model Town station, in another district of Lahore.
Activists note that no one saw him write his name in the Qurʾān. Instead, the complaint could be a retaliatory act against his family, because the accuser is in a dispute with Babu’s brother George Masih who owns a thriving grocery store, which Nadeem wants to take over.
The Evangelical Christian is also disliked by local Muslims for organising prayer meetings at his home. For 15 years, many Christians, but also several Muslims, have participate in his meetings and have asked for his blessings and healings.
Some of the accused’s friends believe that his increasing popularity has fuelled a climate of intolerance among Muslims, especially since Peer Baba Gujjar’s mosque was losing members.
Others also point out the oddity of the sequence of events: Babu is supposed to have desecrated the Qurʾān in secret, but then left the evidence for everyone to see.
In Pakistan, insulting Muhammad is a capital crime. Anyone speaking out against the ‘black law’ of blasphemy risks life and liberty.
This is what happened to Shaan Taseer, son of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was killed in 2011 by his bodyguard for defending Asia Bibi, a Christian mother accused of insulting the prophet, in prison since 2009.
Shaan Taseer had recently posted a Christmas message on social media calling for prayers for the unjustly accused.
This was followed by a fatwa against him by an Islamist group, Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, saying that he is "condemnable to death."