Another Christian in Pakistan has been handed a death sentence for alleged “blasphemy” against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
This latest case is particularly troubling, as Ashfaq Masih made no reference to Muhammad or to the Islamic religion.
Ashfaq’s alleged crime was to say that he believes Jesus Christ to be the only true prophet.
From an Islamic perspective, this statement can be considered blasphemous because it denies by implication that Muhammad is a true prophet.
Last month two brothers, both Christians, Qasir and Amoon Ayub, saw their death sentence for “blasphemy” upheld by an appeal court in Rawalpindi.
In January this year Zafar Bhatti, a Christian appealing against a sentence of life imprisonment for “blasphemy”, received a death sentence.
In each of these cases, Christians have been the victims of spurious accusations from Muslim neighbours.
Although the Pakistan government is making progress in supporting the rights of Christians and other minorities, not enough has been done to address this issue.
One suggestion for the modification of the “blasphemy” laws is the adoption of the sharia (Islamic law) principle of qazaf. Used in relation to accusations of adultery (zina), the qazaf principle is that false accusations should be punished almost as severely as the crime itself.
Adoption of this principle in relation to “blasphemy” would mean that false accusations could result in fines or imprisonment.
If taken seriously, this principle could work to reduce the number of malicious accusations made against Christians and others.