By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani Christian teenager was behind bars Wednesday, August 26, after being beaten on “false” charges of “blasphemy” and several Muslims have demanded a death sentence for him, his family and supporters, rights investigators said.
The group International Christian Concern (ICC) said 18-year-old Safian Masih, who lives in a mixed neighborhood of both Christians and Muslims, is held in a prison of the city of Gujranwala, in Pakistan’s Punjab province. “His family has fled their home because they fear for their safety” after a mob “also threatened to kill anyone who helped Safian or his family,” ICC added.
ICC linked the imprisonment to an incident August 8 when the young daughter of one of his Muslim neighbors demanded that Safian bring her items from the grocery store. When Safian refused she reportedly slapped him, and the young man apparently slapped her back, escalating the argument to include both families.“
After the altercation, the girl’s parents allegedly accused Safian of trying to rape their daughter. “When other Muslims heard this, they gathered and severely beat him. After beating him, they submitted a report to the police accusing Safian of rape, and had him handed over to police custody and jail,” Christians said.
Two days later, on August 10, “the Muslims changed their story and accused Safian of blasphemy instead of rape. They claimed that the girl was attending a madrassa, [or Muslim school], to learn about the Koran,” seen as a holy book by Muslims, according to ICC investigators. “When Safian encountered her he took her Koran and tore out its pages,” the Muslims allegedly told police.
After hearing this, some Muslims attacked Safian again and beat him so badly that they forced him to “admit” that he had “blasphemed” the Koran, ICC said. “They then handed him over to the police again. On August 14, a Muslim mob gathered and demanded that Safian be put to death as well as family members or supporters.”
His family apparently remained in hiding Wednesday, August 26. The incident is the latest in a series of reported attacks against Christians in Punjab province. “In Pakistan, Christians live as second-class citizens and repeatedly face violence from the Muslims majority,” claimed ICC representative Jonathan Racho.
“Muslims easily exacerbate small disagreements and call for the execution or even murder of Christians. While ICC does not condone Safian’s slapping of a Muslim girl, it is unconscionable for Muslims to call for his death.”
ICC said it had urged its supporters around the world to “pray for the safety of Safian and his family” and to contact Pakistani embassies in their country to ask for his release.