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.
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.