A Pakistani preacher has been charged with blasphemy against Islam after members of a Muslim group monitored her defense of the Christian faith in a WhatsApp chat, according to reports.
Shagufta Kiran is in jail and her husband and children in hiding after she was formally charged with insulting Islam and its prophet over conversations she had about faith online.
Members of an Islamic group deliberately joined the chat for the sake of gathering evidence to use against her.
Morning Star News reports that the admins of a WhatsApp group invited members of the Movement for Protection of Finality of Prophethood to observe the conversation Kiran was engaged in for this express purpose.
“Kiran was accused of forwarding blasphemous content in a WhatsApp group of preachers and defenders of various religions, according to the complainant in the First Information Report (FIR), Farooqi,” the outlet explains.
“She was charged with insulting Islam (Section 295-A of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes, punishable by up to 10 years in prison), insulting Muhammad (295-C, carrying the death penalty), wounding religious feelings (298), derogatory remarks about Muhammad (298-A) and abetment (109).”
Trumped-up blasphemy charges are often used in Pakistan to settle personal scores, while others exercise vigilante justice when a person is accused of insulting Islam.
In this case, the group members, who did not participate in Kiran’s heated religious discussions online but only joined to gather evidence against her, were sure to do things according to Pakistan’s laws.
“Rather than taking the law into our hand, we have followed the legal way,” a representative from the group told Morning Star News. “We want a court to convict and sentence her.”
“Kiran, formerly a nurse, had joined several interfaith WhatsApp groups where she preached and defended her Christian faith. One such group, Pure Discussions, was administered by the complainant, Farooqi, Muhammad Ameer Faisal of India and Muhammad Jaleel of Canada,” the outlet notes.
A reporter for Morning Star News heard audio clips from the group in which Kiran was threatened with “serious consequences” and attacked for her faith. She, in turn, accused the members of trying to blackmail her with threats of baseless blasphemy charges.
Pakistan is classified by the U.S. State Department as a country of particular concern over its institutional religious freedom violations. In 2020, 35 people were sentenced to death after being charged with blasphemy.
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