LAHORE: Local police on Saturday arrested the imam of a mosque on terror charges in relation to the incident involving a 15-year-old boy who had cut off his own hand believing he had committed blasphemy.
On Friday night a first information report (FIR No. 36/16) was registered against the prayer leader Shabbir Ahmed on behalf of the state underSection 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and Section 324 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) against the imam.
Police officials said the cleric was arrested under the National Action Plan (NAP) for inciting violence during a speech in which he asked a controversial question.
Around five days ago, the cleric, addressing a Mehfil-i-Milad at a village mosque in Hujra Shah Muqeem town, some 125 kilometres south of Lahore, said that ‘those who love the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) always say their prayers’.
He then asked his audience “Who does not love the Prophet (PBUH)?” The cleric asked. “Raise your hand.” The child misheard the question and raised his hand.
The imam then pointed to the youth and alleged he was a “blasphemer who was liable to be killed”.
When asked, members of the crowd said they were aware the boy had not committed blasphemy as he was the victim of a misunderstanding.
However, police maintain that the allegations of the cleric led to the boy’s heinous act, as he felt ashamed and dejected after being called a blasphemer.
The 15-year-old maintains that the imam is blameless while his act was reportedly celebrated by his parents and neighbours.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mob violence and lynchings.
Here’s a hypothetical situation: You have a 15-year-old son, and he hacks off his own hand after believing he has committed blasphemy. How would you react?
Shock? Horror? Perhaps, a few weeks of introspection wondering where you have gone wrong as a parent?
How about pride, joy, and celebration instead?
In Pakistan, where all sorts of bizarre reports make headlines, it isn’t often that we sit up and take notice of news stories. Yet, this is exactly what happened recently, when a 15-year-old boy in a village close to Lahore in the Hujra Shah Muqeem district, cut off his own hand believing he had committed blasphemy.
As reports claim, the youngster was at a mosque when the imam asked the worshipers who among them wasn’t offering prayers regularly. This was after he had stated that those who love the Prophet (PBUH) don’t miss out on their prayers.
When the boy raised his hand after mishearing the question, the imam, alongside the attendees around him, shamed the 15-year-old for committing blasphemy. Some reports even state that the boy was beaten by the cleric for his ‘sin’.
The psychological impact of the public disgrace propelled the child. He wanted to prove beyond doubt that he was not a blasphemer.
So much so that to punish himself, using a fodder cutting machine, he sliced off the very hand he had raised at the mosque.
Then, the child presented his appendage to the preacher on a plate.
Rather than be appalled at the sight of a child’s bloody hand, the neighbourhood cheered the youngster, hailing him a hero. His parents, too, beamed with pride.
Once you absorb the disturbing nature of this incident, you have to take pause.
You have to wonder about the established set of attitudes of the boy, his parents, the cleric, and the people of the entire village.
What kind of a people respond to such a gruesome act in a celebratory fashion?
Are we all OK with the way this boy was treated?
Clearly, we are.
More importantly, if the boy was so desperate to prove that he wasn’t a blasphemer that he was willing to part with his own hand, what else was he prepared to do?