Police in Pakistan's Punjab province registered another questionable blasphemy case against a Christian on April 1, jailing a respected high school principal for slander he allegedly spoke two months ago against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Pervaiz Masih, founding director of the Iqbal Memorial High School in Chelay Kay village near Sialkot, was arrested at his home on April 1 during a late-night police raid.

Accused of committing religious blasphemy against Muhammad as prohibited under Section 295-C of the Pakistan penal code, the 33-year-old teacher faces a mandatory death sentence if convicted.

According to Masih's accuser, a Qur'an course teacher named Sajjad Ahmed, the Christian had made the offensive comments two months earlier to three teenage schoolboys he was tutoring privately.

The students claim that Masih had told them Muhammad once raped a 6-year-old girl, an incident he said was recorded in Sahih Bukhari, a book of the hadith ("inspired traditions") of Islam.

When the schoolboys related the alleged comments to Ahmed weeks later, he promptly reported their claims to local community leaders, demanding that the Christian be punished severely for sinning against their holy prophet of Islam.

According to local sources, one of Masih's Muslim neighbors, who started a rival private school two years ago about a mile from the Iqbal Memorial High School, had an ongoing feud with the Christian teacher. This same neighbor reportedly convinced village leaders to agree that a case should be filed against Masih and then accompanied Ahmed to the police station.

Officers from the Saddar Daska police station raided Masih's home and arrested him. Masih was sent the next day to the Sialkot District Jail, where his family has been refused admission to visit him.

Masih's family remains "very worried about his safety," said a preliminary report from the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement on April 6.

Non-Muslims incarcerated in Pakistan's large-ward prisons remain at risk of attack from other inmates once it is known they are charged with blasphemy.

A local Protestant bishop says that Masih, who is single, is a member of the Presbyterian church in Pakistan.

Related Elsewhere

See today's related story,

"Stolen Daughter | Parents demand answers after girl is kidnapped and reportedly raped," and our sample letter of concern to Pakistan's embassy in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Department of State reports on human rights and religious freedom detail abuses in the Pakistan.

Previous Christianity Today articles about Pakistan include:

Christians Cleared of Blasphemy | But more than 50 Pakistani Christians have been victimized on trumped-up charges since 1987. (Mar. 26, 2001)

U.S. Religious Freedom Commission Criticized | Indian churches reject U.S. inquiry, but Pakistani Christians welcome it. (Oct. 3, 2000)

Pakistan's Christians Demand End to 'Religious Apartheid' at Polls | Election system allows religious minorities to vote only for candidates of their own faith. (Sept. 19, 2000)

Rapes of Christians Put Pakistani Justice on Trial | "Religious apartheid is coming," says human rights leader. (Sept. 12, 2000)

Military Leader Backpeddles on Human Rights Decision (June 12, 2000)

Two Pakistani Christians Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison | Musharraf retracts new blasphemy law policy in wake of protests. (May 23, 2000)

Blasphemy Case Registered Against Young Pakistani Husband | First test of military government's new judicial curb (May 11, 2000)

Churches Welcome Pakistan Promise to Ease Restrictions on Minority Faiths | October coup turns out to be beneficial to Christians as blasphemy laws are overhauled. (May 4, 2000)

Pakistan's Christians 'Not Shocked' by Life Sentence for Former PM | Life has improved, persecution has eased under new leader, say church leaders. (Jan. 15, 2000)

Pakistan's Despised Christians | Despite a Catholic bishop's protest suicide in 1998, Christians hold little hope for repeal of blasphemy law. (April 26, 1999)

Islamic Law Proposal Raises Tensions (Dec. 7, 1998)

Pakistani Bishop's Death Sparks Riots (June 15, 1998)

Muslims Destroy Christian Village | Rumors of a damaged copy of the Qur'an incite riot. (April 7, 1997)

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