Christian man accused of blasphemy over WhatsApp poem, hunted by police in Pakistan

Pakistani police are hunting down a Christian man accused by his Muslim friend of insulting Prophet Muhammad and other holy Islamic figures in a poem sent on WhatsApp.

According to The Express Tribune, Yasir Bashir charged a case of blasphemy Monday, July 11 against his Christian friend, Nadeem James (also identified as Nadeem Masihm), whom he accused of sending him through the messaging service WhatsApp a poem that contained blasphemous remarks against Prophet Muhammad and other holy Islamic figures.

(REUTERS/NACHO DOCE)An illustration photo shows the Whatsapp application logo on a mobile phone in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 2, 2016.

"Police have registered a case on blasphemy charges against Nadeem James and are searching for him as he has fled his home," a local police official told AFP on condition of anonymity, as reported by Tribune.

The case led to the accused man's relatives being held in what another police official referred to as "protective custody" while James remains in hiding. His hometown of Sara-i-Almgeer, just an estimated 160 kilometers north of the impoverished district of Lahore where many Christians live, is also held in heightened security due to rising tension resulting from the blasphemy case.

Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws most often lead to death penalties handed by judicial courts or by the hands of an enraged Muslim mob as with the case in 2014 when Muslim villagers assaulted and burned to death a Christian couple and their unborn child.

Christians and other religious minorities in the country often find themselves at the defensive side of this deadly law.

"Christians face a lot of discrimination in society and the bigotry against them often ends up using the vehicle of blasphemy allegations motivated either by designs to take over land or by personal enmity or ego," said lawyer Sundas Hoorain, as reported by Independent.

Earlier in March, human rights advocate Minority Rights Group International (MRG) urged the Pakistani government to take action on the country's targeted violence, including the use of blasphemy law as a religious persecution tool.

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