May 23, 2008

A Christian doctor is being held in a Pakistan jail while religious extremists demand that he be publicly hanged for blasphemy. Dr. Robin Sardar, 55, is facing a possible death sentence after an envious friend claimed he made offensive remarks about the Quran and Muhammad’s beard, according to a report by the International Christian Concern, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights group. Sardar’s former friend, Muhammad Yousaf, became jealous of the Christian’s professional success and financial status, so he filed a First Information Report May 5 with police, claiming the doctor had made derogatory statements about the prophet. According to Sardar’s nephew, a mob of more than 200 Muslims wielding guns, sticks and kerosene oil attacked the doctor’s home and medical offices following the report to police. The men, wearing green turbans to represent their Islamic faith, broke into Sadar’s home, shattered windows and ruined the family’s furniture in their residence and clinic.

“The mob then turned on Sardar and his family,” the ICC reports. “Mr. Pervaiz Ghori, another of Sardar’s relatives, said that the mob would have killed him if the police had not intervened in the nick of time.” The Islamic extremists protest daily on city streets, calling for the Christian doctor to be publicly executed. His nephew said Muslim clerics have been sending messages out over the mosque amplifier, urging the community to slay Sardar’s family. Another human rights organization, the National Commission for Justice and Peace, is defending Sardar, imploring officials to drop the case and requesting that they safeguard religious minorities. According to Pakistan’s laws against blasphemy, people who make disrespectful comments about Islam can receive punishments similar to sentences for murderers.

Former President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq added Section 295-B to Pakistan’s penal code in 1982, ordering that critical remarks about the Quran would be punishable by life in prison. Section 295-C, commonly referred to as the blasphemy law, states “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” In 1990, the federal Sharia court ruled, “The penalty for contempt of the Holy Prophet … is death and nothing else.”

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