Friday, November 24, 2017
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Pakistani boy's response to blasphemy charge is to cut off his hand

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Late one night, the imam Shabir Ahmad looked up from prayers at his mosque in Pakistan to see a 15-year-old boy approaching with a plate in his outstretched left hand. On it was the boy's freshly severed right hand.

Ahmad did not hesitate. He fled the mosque and left the village, in eastern Punjab province.

Earlier that night, Jan. 10, he had denounced the boy as a blasphemer, an accusation that in Pakistan can get a person killed — even when the accusation is false, as it was in this case.

The boy, Anwar Ali, the devout son of a poor laborer, had been attending an evening prayer gathering at the mosque in the village of Khanqah when Ahmad asked for a show of hands of those who did not love the prophet Mohammed. Thinking the cleric had asked for those who did love the prophet, Anwar's hand shot up, according to witnesses and the boy's family.

He realized his mistake when he saw that his was the only hand up, and he quickly put it down. But by then Ahmad was screaming "Blasphemer!" at him, along with many others in the crowd.

Anwar went home, found a sharp scythe and chopped off his right hand that same night. When he showed it to the cleric, he made clear it was an offering to absolve his perceived sin.

The police quickly caught the mullah and locked him up, but local religious leaders protested, and the authorities backed down and released him. After the international news media began picking up on the story over the weekend, the authorities rearrested Ahmad on Sunday, holding him on terrorism and other charges.

"He has been charged for inciting and arousing the emotions of people to such a level that the boy did this act," the district police chief, Faisal Rana, said.

The boy's family, however, says the cleric did nothing wrong and should not be punished.

"We are lucky that we have this son who loves prophet Mohammed that much," Muhammad Ghafoor, Anwar's father, said in a phone interview. "We will be rewarded by God for this in the eternal world."

Anwar, too, declined to make any charge against the mullah. "What I did was for love of the prophet Mohammed," he said.

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