As Christians throughout Pakistan demand more protection in the wake of a church suicide bombing that killed more than 80 worshipers, some good news has surfaced on the other main challenge facing the beleaguered community: false accusations of blasphemy against Islam.
Days after a Muslim gold scavenger slit a Christian competitor's throat for alleged blasphemy, an influential Islamic group has told Pakistan to change its laws to protect its citizens against rampant false accusations that afflict Muslims as well as Christians.
Boota Masih, a 58-year-old scavenger in Karachi, was killed by Muhammad Asif in the marketplace as spectators and police watched, reported Morning Star News. "Asif kept shouting that my father was an infidel and had spoken derogatory words against Muhammad [Islam's prophet] as he mercilessly stabbed him," said George Masih, the scavenger's son.
In another recent example, Christians near Lahore fled their village after their pastor was similarly accused.
Now, a measure put forward by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body serving an advisory role to Pakistan's legislature, has urged the death penalty for anyone who falsely accuses another of blasphemy, calling it "tantamount to blasphemy" itself.
The call for reform is significant in light of the 2011 assassinations of two Pakistani politicians—Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti—who supported changing the existing blasphemy law, while a Christian mother, Asia Bibi, is still imprisoned and faces the death penalty for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed.
In a country where blasphemy against Islam or the Prophet Mohammed is punishable by death, the CII wants to improve the security of all kinds of worship in Pakistan, especially in light of the recent Peshawar attack, Pakistan Today reported.
And religious scholars backing the CII agree that the same penalty is necessary for the false accusers as for the blasphemers. This will prevent using blasphemy as a means to settle personal scores, and also appease those who directly oppose the blasphemy law, according to Pakistan's TheNation.
A Pakistani newspaper editorial said citizens will often accuse another of blasphemy to "settle scores, acquire possession of property or simply on the basis of hearsay." Even if the person is acquitted, it often takes years to get out of prison, and sometimes freedom does not always mean safety.
CT has previously reported on Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl who became one of the first to be acquitted of blasphemy charges in Pakistan. CT has also reported on other Christians being acquitted of blasphemy, as well as the plight of Asia Bibi.