Ahmadis, Islamic Extremists Charge Christian with Blasphemy

Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Fawad4real, Creative Commons)

Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Fawad4real, Creative Commons)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – In a rare case of Ahmadis colluding with Islamic extremists to accuse a Christian of blasphemy, a preacher in Pakistan has been jailed and her family is in hiding after she was charged with insulting Islam and its prophet, sources said.

Shagufta Kiran, a 35-year-old Christian preacher in Islamabad, has been in jail since Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) agents raided her house on July 29 in the Iqbal Town area of Islamabad and took her and her sons, 10 and 12 years old, into custody, a source said.

The boys were soon released, said her husband, who was not at home at the time of the raid. Kiran is now in Central Jail Adiala, Rawalpindi, while her sons and husband have gone into hiding due to security threats surrounding the blasphemy charges against Kiran.

“It was around 4 a.m. when the officers besieged the house,” said a source who requested anonymity for security reasons. “Kiran pleaded with them not to arrest her sons, but the officers paid no heed.”

Kiran was accused of forwarding blasphemous content last year in a WhatsApp group discussion among preachers and defenders of various religions, according to the complainant in the First Information Report (FIR), Shiraz Farooqi. Farooqi is a member of the Ahmadiyya, a group with Islam roots that Muslims regard as heretical.

Kiran was charged with insulting Islam (Section 295-A of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes, punishable by up to 10 years in prison), insulting Muhammad (295-C, carrying the death penalty), wounding religious feelings (298), derogatory remarks about Muhammad (298-A) and abetment (109).

The case was filed by the Muslim extremist Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat (Movement for Protection of Finality of Prophethood) at the instigation of Ahmadis who were offended by her staunch defense of Christianity, the source said.

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Farooqi, the Ahmadi complainant, sought the support of the Islamist outfit to pressure FIA’s Cyber Crime Unit into filing a blasphemy case against Kiran, the source said. If true, it would be the first reported case of Ahmadis in Pakistan accusing a Christian of blasphemy.

Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmed, general secretary of the Tehreek Tahaffuz-i-Namoos-Risalat, said the group filed the case with the FIA in September 2020 after an Ahmadi showed them text messages by others and forwarded by Kiran in a WhatsApp group. Ahmed declined to reveal the source who provided the texts, saying the messages alone were enough to bring charges against Kiran.

“Rather than taking the law into our hand, we have followed the legal way,” Ahmed told Morning Star News. “We want a court to convict and sentence her.”

Kiran, formerly a nurse, had joined several interfaith WhatsApp groups where she preached and defended her Christian faith. One such group, Pure Discussions, was administered by the complainant, Farooqi, Muhammad Ameer Faisal of India and Muhammad Jaleel of Canada. All three group admins are said to be members of the Ahmadiyya religion.

A Morning Star News reporter has heard audio clips from the group that reveal heated discussions between the admins and Kiran in which they threatened her repeatedly with “serious consequences” while attacking her Christian faith. In response, Kiran accused them of trying to blackmail her with threats of baseless blasphemy charges.

False Cases

Numerous blasphemy cases have been filed in Pakistan, with some resulting in death sentences for the accused either inside the courtroom or extra-judicially by Islamist vigilantes.

Moreover, with the emergence of social media and new cyber laws, online blasphemy accusations and campaigns in Pakistan have multiplied, with accusers able to target anyone with near total impunity. Church officials and human rights groups say blasphemy allegations are frequently used to settle personal scores.

A Senate Special Committee on Human Rights and the Islamabad High Court in 2018 recommended that those making false blasphemy accusations be given the same punishments as those for blasphemy convictions, but the government dismissed the recommendation. The recommendation also stated that anyone registering a blasphemy case at a police station must bring two witnesses.

While punishment for blasphemy ranges from several years in prison to death in Pakistan, a person making a false accusation faces potential punishment of only six months in prison or a fine of 1,000 rupees (US$6). Successive governments have acknowledged that the blasphemy laws are blatantly misused, but little effort has been made to stop the abuses.

Rights activists say it’s unlikely that any government will move to repeal or amend the blasphemy laws due to fierce Islamist sentiments in the Muslim-majority country. They say Pakistani authorities must be urged to immediately implement effective procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent abuse of these laws.

At least 35 people in prison in 2020 received death sentences for blasphemy, compared with 29 the previous year, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2020 International Religious Freedom Report.

The U.S. State Department in December re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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The post Ahmadis, Islamic Extremists Charge Christian with Blasphemy appeared first on Morningstar News.

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