11/15/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to Asia News, a Christian man and his Muslim friend have been released on bail after being imprisoned on charges of blasphemy for the past 11 months.
On December 27, 2019, Shahbaz Masih and a Muslim friend, Muhammad Ishaq, were accused of committing blasphemy by Shahzaib and Ahmad in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The two were arrested by police and formally charged with violating Section 295-B of the Pakistani Criminal Code.
According to Human Rights Focus Pakistan, Masih is a well-known Christian in his community. On December 27, 2019, Masih was attacked by two Muslim men named Shahzaib and Ahmad. The men dragged Masih to a nearby landfill and beat him.
Ishaq, Masih’s Muslim friend, was alerted to the attack by Masih’s screams and came to his aid. Following the attack, Shahzaib and Ahmad accused Masih and Ishaq of burning pages of the Quran. A riot broke out after a nearby mosque called on local Muslims to kill both Masih and Ishaq.
Police arrested Masih and Ishaq when they arrived on the scene and took them to the local police station for questioning. After that, the pair was moved to prison. According to local human rights activists, police gave into pressure from local religious extremists and charged Masih and Ishaq with blasphemy.
Asia News reports that the court in Faisalabad granted bail to Masih and Ishaq on November 10. The pair will likely have to go into hiding given the sensitivity of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests.