Pakistan imam arrested after boy cuts off hand over blasphemy accusation

The imam of a mosque in Pakistan has been arrested and accused of inciting violence after he allegedly made a false charge of blasphemy against a 15-year-old boy, who proceeded to cut off his hand in response to the claim.

The New York Times reported that the boy, who it identified as Anwar Ali, was attending an evening prayer gathering at the mosque in the village of Khanqah, southwest of Lahore, on the night of Jan. 10. At one point, the imam, identified as Shabir Ahmed, asked those in attendance who did not love the Muslim prophet Muhammad to raise their hands.

Authorities said Ali misheard the question and raised his hand, believing that Ahmed had asked who did love Muhammad. 

According to an account published in the Dawn newspaper, the imam pointed at Ali and said he was a "blasphemer who was liable to be killed."

The Times reported that many in the crowd, taking their cues from Ahmed, yelled at Ali, "Don't you love your prophet?" as he fled the mosque. According to the paper, the boy went home, cut off his right hand with a scythe, and presented it to the imam.

Despite the imam's arrest, the boy and his family maintain that the religious leader is blameless.

"We are lucky that we have this son who loves Prophet Muhammad that much," the boy's father told The Times. "We will be rewarded by God for this in the eternal world."

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where such allegations have been known to result in mob violence and lynchings.  

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