Masood Ahmad, a 72-year-old British man of the minority Ahmadi sect has appealed to the UK for help after being jailed in Pakistan on blasphemy charges. Ahmadis are considered heretics in Pakistan and have been known to be persecuted.
Masood was arrested last month from his homeopathy clinic in the Pakistani city of Lahore and was charged with blasphemy.
In fact, he was set up to be arrested by two men posing as patients who talked to him about religion and got him to recite a Holy verse from the Quran while secretly filming him on their cell phone. That video was enough to land him in jail.
Approximately 2–5 million Ahmadiyya Muslims live in Pakistan or were born there- making the country the home to the largest population of Ahmadis in the world.
They like to call themselves Muslims but unlike the majority, believe in their own founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet after Mohammed whereas majority of Muslims believe prophet-hood ended with Mohammad. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims.
Ahmadis can be jailed for up to three years in Pakistan for "behaving like Muslims", having Muslim names or using Islamic terms for their places of worship or religious rituals.
The country’s blasphemy laws, sections of which carry the death penalty or life imprisonment, seems to be a noose used to trap minorities. Under Muslim Pakistan's anti-blasphemy law, the mere allegation of causing offence to Islam can mean death. Convictions are common and although a death sentence has never been carried out, mobs have been known to kill anyone accused of the crime.
The gravity of blasphemy law can be understood from the fact that it can trap anyone from a teenage girl to a high ranking Minister. Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S Sherry Rehman was accused of blasphemy and the Governor of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, Salman Taseer was gunned down, for suggesting amendments to it..
Read more: How Punjab Governor's Killer Became A Hero
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have gained international concern as well, with the Vatican asking for the law to be rectified.