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February 15, 2012

Pakistan: New Blasphemy Charge

Screen shot 2012-02-15 at 12.23.38 PMDildar Yousaf, 28, was arrested and charged with blasphemy after defending his 8-year-old nephew from a group of Muslim boys on June 10, 2011. That morning, Dildar’s nephew, Ehtasham, was taunted by a group of boys as he passed the madrassa on his way to the market. A madrassa is a school where Islamic students study the Quran.

As Ehtasham walked by the madrassa, seven boys gathered around him and tried to force him to become a Muslim by repeating the phrase, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Ehtasham refused, and the boys began to scream at him and beat him.

Ehtasham’s uncle, Dildar, happened to pass by at that moment. Dildar pulled his nephew away from the boys and took him back home. Dildar then went on to his job. That afternoon, the news spread that Dildar had disgraced the Muslim proclamation of faith; the news was repeated from one mosque loudspeaker to another. Soon Muslim crowds began to shout, “Kill him! Death for the blasphemer!”

Police picked up Dildar from his workplace and put him in protective custody. They also filed a blasphemy charge against him under Pakistani law 298A, which carries the lightest sentence for blasphemers. (Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who was charged with blasphemy under 298C, was sentenced to death. Her case is on appeal.)

Dildar remains in prison as his case progresses through the justice system. His blasphemy charge carries a potential three-year sentence, with the possibility of parole. Dildar’s wife, Naseem, and two children have had to leave their home and move in with her family in another village because of ongoing threats. Ehtasham and his family have also had to leave their village. VOM is supporting the family and providing legal assistance to Dildar.

Dildar’s village has a history of persecution. In the past, a Christian’s house was burned, a pastor was killed, and believer Ayub Masih was charged with blasphemy. “Muslims have always looked down on us,” Ayub told VOM workers. “We cannot send our children to school, and we cannot feed our animals because we cannot go into the fields. We live under the fear that anything can happen any time.”

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs