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IN 1986 PAKISTAN made it a crime to insult Mohammed directly or indirectly. In October 1990, the Federal Shari’ah Court ruled that “the penalty for contempt of the Holy Prophet ... is death and nothing else” and ordered the government to implement necessary legal changes. The resulting Penal Code of 1991 has several blasphemy sections. As a United Nations commissioner for human rights noted, these changes and other acts of islamization (such as stripping Christians of the right to vote) had a chilling effect on the nation’s religious minorities.

Simply declaring one’s non-Muslim religious beliefs could be viewed as an indirect insult. Naimat Ahmer, a Christian poet and teacher in Faisalabad, fell afoul of this interpretation because of jealousy that he was being posted to Dasuha High School. Other teachers coveted the job.

Envious Muslim colleagues asked Naimat what he thought of Mohammed. When he testified that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and to salvation, they accused him of blaspheming Muhammed. Hand-written posters appeared on Dasuha walls claiming that “a certain Christian schoolmaster” had insulted the prophet.

A hearing to approve Naimat’s transfer was scheduled at Faisalabad´s District Education Office on this day 6 January 1992. It would be Naimat’s last day alive on earth. He excused himself during the hearing to use a nearby lavatory. Suddenly students and staff heard screams. When they rushed to the source they found a twenty-year-old student, Farooq Ahmed, brandishing a bloodied butcher knife. He had stabbed Naimat seventeen times.

Allegedly the police officers who arrested Farooq embraced him and praised him for his commitment to Islam. Farooq claimed he killed Naimat because the police had taken no action regarding the teacher’s blasphemy. Farooq knew the penal code called for death for such behavior and felt it was his duty to carry out the neglected law.

Naimat left a widow and five children. His brother, Waqar Ahmer, requested a murder investigation. Pakistani Christians also pleaded for justice, as did the international community. Eventually Farooq was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. However, in prison he was lionized as a hero of Islam for defending the honor of Mohammed.

Dan Graves


For another story of persecution in Pakistan, read "Searching for me with pistols and daggers" in Christian History #109, Eyewitness to the Modern Age of Persecution

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