Pakistani police have arrested the imam of a mosque for inciting violence after a 15-year-old boy, who was told by the religious leader that he was a blasphemer, went home and cut off his own hand.
Shabbir Ahmed was delivering a sermon at a village mosque in the east of Pakistan’s Punjab province when he told the gathering those who love the Prophet Mohammad always say their prayers before asking who, among the crowd, had stopped praying and did not love the prophet.
Local police chief Nausher Ahmed told Reuters news agency that Mohammad Anwar, mishearing the question, raised his hand. The imam quickly singled him out and called him a “blasphemer” in front of the congregation.
Anwar went home and cut off his hand – an act welcomed by his father who told police he was proud of his son and did not want the imam arrested.
The boy presented his arm to the imam on a plate, said Nausher who added he saw a video in which the boy was greeted by villagers in the street as his parents proclaimed their pride.
The incident took place at a village in Hujra Shah Muqeem town, about 125km south of Punjab’s capital Lahore.
Police filed anti-terrorism charges against Shabbir and arrested him on Saturday.
“Such illiterate imams of mosques should not be allowed to deliver speeches,” Nausher said. “His arrest is under the National Action Plan that hate speeches inciting violence are no longer allowed in this country.”
Blasphemy is a highly controversial issue in Pakistan, and angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam in the Muslim-majority country.
The law does not define blasphemy but stipulates that the penalty is death, although a death sentence has never been carried out.
Since 1990, more than 65 people have been extrajudicially killed as a result of blasphemy cases.
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