A Christian Man in Pakistan was Sentenced to Death for Sharing “Blasphemous” Material on WhatsApp

since his death sentence, fear has swept across the Christian community in the area. We rarely venture out of our house and live in constant fear. We know that anything can happen to us.

DW talks to his brother about the court conviction and the plight of minorities in Pakistan.

On Friday, an anti-terrorism court in eastern Pakistan sentenced Nadeem James, a 35-year-old Christian, to death on blasphemy charges. James, a tailor by profession, was accused by a friend of sharing “blasphemous messages” on WhatsApp’s text messaging service.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where around 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim. Rights advocates have long been demanding a reform of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Pakistan Nadeem James (DW/S. Khan)Nadeem James

 

Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Religious groups oppose any change to the blasphemy law and consider it necessary for Pakistan’s Islamic identity.

Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities complain of legal and social discrimination. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.

One of Pakistan’s most high profile blasphemy cases is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was found guilty of committing blasphemy while working in the fields in 2009 and was sentenced to death. In 2014, her death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court. Amnesty International called the verdict a “grave injustice.”  In one case, a young girl between the ages of 10 to 14 years with Down syndrome, was accused in August of 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her home town and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada.

In 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln.

Read more: Pakistan journalism student latest victim of blasphemy vigilantes

In an interview with DW, James’ brother, Faryaad Masih, rejects blasphemy allegations against his brother and says his family has been living in constant fear since James’ arrest in July 2016.

DW: You deny that your brother, Nadeem James, sent blasphemous messages through WhatsApp. Do you have any proof to substantiate your claims?

Faryaad Masih: Police say that my brothers sent blasphemous material through WhatsApp but those messages could easily have been sent by James’ Muslim friends through his phone. Actually, the main complainant in the case is the one who forwarded those messages.

Why would James’ friends make false allegations against him?

James has three friends who live in the Gujarat area. Their names are Shakeel, Yasir and Akram. Our neighbor’s daughter, Nargis, fell in love with James although she knew that he is married with two children. His friends told him he could only marry Nargis if he converted to Islam although the girl had no problem with James’ religion. My brother refused to convert to Islam, and that created a rift among friends.

How did the people in the area react after the “blasphemy” news broke?

As soon as the news spread on July 4, last year, a crowd of around 200 people surrounded our houses. James, another brother of mine and I were at work at the time. When we came to know about this, we went into hiding. The mob was ready to set our houses on fire, but police stopped them.

James surrendered after two days but our family had to move to another area for safety. It saddens me that people with whom we had lived for over 17 years became our enemies after the incident.

Are you still afraid?

After James’ arrest things became quite normal. But since his death sentence, fear has swept across the Christian community in the area. We rarely venture out of our house and live in constant fear. We know that anything can happen to us.

Pakistan Lahore Protest Trauer nach Anschlag Christenverfolgung (picture-alliance/dpa/I. Sheikh)Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities complain of legal and social discrimination

 

Who is providing you legal help?  No one is helping us. Our cattle have been stolen. I ran a furniture shop with a Muslim friend who gave me only 40,000 rupees [316 euros] for furniture worth over 250,000 rupees [1,977 euros]. When I demanded more money, he started threatening me. Our neighbors don’t talk to us and people in the area are reluctant to interact with us.

Do you plan to appeal James’ death sentence?

We are hiring a new lawyer through a non-governmental organization. We will appeal against his conviction and pray for his release. Our previous lawyer did not defend James properly. He did not even ask the court to investigate how the blasphemous message originated.

What kinds of problems do Christians have to face in Pakistan?

James told me about a 14-year-old Christian girl in his jail who has been convicted of blasphemy. How can such a young girl commit such a thing? There is no justice for Christians in Pakistan.

What sort of help are you expecting from Pakistan’s civil society over James’ issue?

We are poor people. Mine and James’ wives have also been implicated in a false case of abetment. I am an illiterate person, so is James. He did not complete his primary education. His friends framed him. The authorities should take notice of our situation.

The interview was conducted by Sattar Khan, DW’s Islamabad correspondent.

Cult Member Arrested during Church Service in Ikorodu, Nigeria

the white garment which he pulled off was discovered to be blood stained…

A suspected member of the notorious cult group, Badoo, Ahmed Adeleke, was arrested by members of a white garment church located at Irapade community, Agbowa, the outskirts of Ikorodu after failed attempt to murder a member of the church.

The suspect who disguised as a worshipper, attended the church’s vigil. At the end of the event, church members heard a female member shouting for help after the alleged cultist attacked her, Vanguard reports.

When curious members of the church rushed to the scene, the suspect had smashed the victim’s head. She reportedly pointed to the direction where the suspect took.

Some church members went in the direction and reportedly found the suspect changing his clothes. He was said to have denied the allegation.

But on further observation, the white garment which he pulled off was discovered to be blood stained.  In his narration, the suspect denied being a Badoo member.

“I was a Muslim, but later converted to Christianity. I live at 9, Ojokoro Street, Agric. I was invited to worship there that night by a senior colleague, Kehinde, at the tailoring shop where I work,” he said.

While parading the suspect at the Police Officers Mess, Ikeja, the Lagos State Command boss, Fatai Owoseni said: “Policemen from Ipakodo Division rushed to the church.

“Although the suspect denied the accusation, when the area was searched, three handkerchiefs (white, blue and red) were recovered from him. Also, a grinding stone, which he used to hit his victim on the head, was also found.”

[written by Idris Aina]

 

  • Things that many American’s don’t know about the “Badoo” cult in Lagos, Nigeria. People living in Ikorodu, Lagos State have been under a cloud of fear since the Badoo cult members began their ritual killings. According to the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICR) a criminal described by residents as a “serial ritual killer” was apprehended in Ikorodu on June 12, 2016 and his name was given as “Badoo”. According to the residents of Ikorodu, after every attack, he would write, “I am Badoo” and paste on the door of his victims. He continued in a seemingly invincible manner until he was caught after he molested and killed a 27 year old woman and her 9 month old child. Following the arrest a group of other people rose up and continued the killings- they came to be known as “Badoo.” The cult group carries a stone to use for their ritual killings and have also used clubs, household grinding stones, and mortars with pestles. According to a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police and chairman of the Lagos State Neighborhood Corp. “After they are done, they clean the blood with white clothes and they escape. This is bizarre and it is fetish and a ritual”.  Churches are easy targets for this cult group and has recently killed three people at a “Cherubim and Seraphim” church in Nigeria.