12/06/2011, 00.00
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Lahore, false accusation of blasphemy against a Christian. Fears for his life

by Jibran Khan
A builder of 25 has been falsely accused of having ripped and burned pages of the Koran by a Muslim known for his hatred toward non-Muslims. The police registered the complaint despite the intervention of religious leaders. Fanatic groups threaten to kill him.
Lahore (AsiaNews) - A Christian of 25 was yesterday accused of blasphemy in the district of Qazi, Shahdra, Lahore. Construction worker Khurram Masih, married for two months, was working at the residence of Abdul Majeed. After completing the installation of marble tile he collected some pieces of paper, newspapers and wooden boards to burn. Abdul Majeed once he saw the burnt leftovers started screaming that Khurram Masih had ripped and burned parts of the Koran. Other workers gathered, attacking Masih and dragging him to the police station.

Abdul Majeed made the request to file a complaint against Khurram Masih for blasphemy. Religious leaders, along with human rights activists gathered at the police station and tried to resolve the issue, but the officers and local residents did not want to let Masih go, and continued to insist that the complaint be upheld. And this morning a FIR (First Information Report) for blasphemy under the Pakistan Penal Code was registered against Khurram Masih.

Human rights activists, including Khalid Shahzad and Khalid Gill, were present at the police station, they asked for protection for the accused and have protested that the charge was false. Extremist groups have announced through loud speakers that a Christian had desecrated the Koran and had to be punished. The human rights activists are concerned about the safety of Khurram Masih, who is not safe in the Shahdra police station. Father Francis Xavier, of the diocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews: "It is a very sad incident, the young man was falsely accused of blasphemy. The person who made the complaint is linked to religious groups, and is known for his hatred toward non-Muslims. There have been ads in the area inciting hatred towards Christians. We fear for the life of Khurram Masih, he must be assured protection from those who want to kill him. "

The introduction of the notorious blasphemy laws in 1986, during the dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan, led to an exponential increase in complaints for "desecration of the Koran" or "defamation of the Prophet Muhammad." Between 1927 and 1986, when the "Black Law" was passed, there were only seven cases of blasphemy. Instead, the victims since 1986 have risen to over 4 thousand and the figure is increasing: in fact, from 1988 to 2005, the Pakistani authorities have indicted 647 people for crimes related to blasphemy, but in recent years, there have been thousands of cases of innocent Christians, Muslims, Ahmadis, and members of other religions who have been accused on the words of others, without the slightest hint of proof.

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