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Pakistani Christian Sawan Masih Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy Against ‘Prophet’ Mohammed

Sawan MasihA Christian man has been convicted of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to death in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

BBC reports Sawan Masih, a 26-year-old Christian and father of three, was convicted of uttering derogatory remarks about the Islamic ‘prophet’ figure Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim friend. The allegations against Mashi sparked fierce rioting in Lahore’s Christian Joseph colony, with thousands of incensed Muslims attacking Christians and burning more than 150 homes, businesses and churches last May.

Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy, and a current de facto moratorium on capital punishment there means Masih is likely safe from execution by the state. But allegations of offending or insulting Islam or its ‘prophet’ figure Mohammed often cause Muslims to react violently in the South Asian nation of 180 million, 97 percent of whom are Muslims.

The Times of India reports a judge announced the death sentence during a hearing at the jail where Masih is being held out of fear Muslims might try to kill him.

Critics of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which allows for life imprisonment, charge it is often used to target individuals for personal gain or revenge. Indeed, Masih has long claimed he is innocent of blasphemy, and that his accuser’s motive stems from an ongoing property dispute between the two.

“My son is innocent… we are not being treated fairly,” Chapman Masih, the condemned man’s father, told the BBC.

In 2012 the case of Rimsha Masih, a young Pakistani Christian girl arrested on blasphemy charges after she allegedly burned a Koran, sparked worldwide outrage and condemnation. Masih and her family were granted visas to emigrate to Canada.

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