Pakistan: Christian Principal Accused of Blasphemy

33-year-old Pakistani Presbyterian faces death penalty if convicted.
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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 ...

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