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Pakistani court sentences Catholic to death for insulting Mohammed.

MULTAN, Pakistan -- A Pakistani court has sentenced a Catholic to death for insulting Mohammed, Islams founder.

Judge Sargodha Talib Hussian Baloch pronounced the sentence Nov. 2 against Gul Masih, who was said to have made illegal comments about Mohammed's marital status.

"It is shocking news for us," Catholic official Peter Jacob told UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

Jacob, acting executive secretary for the Justice and Peace Commission of Major Religious Superiors of Pakistan, said an appeal was being filed with the high court.

Masih also was fined the equivalent of $200.

Baloch wrote that in Pakistan, minorities were free to practice their faiths but had no right to insult Mohammed or his companions.

The Koran, Islam's holy book, which followers of the faith believe was revealed by God to Mohammed, permits Muslim men to marry up to four women -- if they can provide for them. Mohammed ultimately had four wives. He was married to the first for 25 years before her death.

The Pakistan Human Rights Commission said the court presumed guilt on the part of Masih and righteousness on the part of his accuser.

The case began in early December 1992 in Sargodha, about 200 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

Mohammad Sajjad, a Muslim, accused Masih, his neighbor, of talking ill of Islam and Islam's founder during a conversation at the community water tap.

According to a priest of the Sargodha Parish, Masih and Sajjad were talking about the broken tap when the conversation turned to religion.

Sajjad expressed the opinion that Christians believe in three Gods and that Jesus is the son of God, and so they must regard Mary as a prostitute.

Gul Masih reportedly replied that he had read in a book written by a maulvi (Muslim religious leader) that Mohammed had 11 wives, including a minor.

"All this was discussed in a conversational way, with no emotion and no enmity," the priest said.

But, he said, Sajjad later talked to a maulvi who, along with some colleagues, decided to file charges.

Sajjad is a member of Sipah-i-Sahaba, a fundamentalist religious organization said to be hostile to minorities, even those who are Muslim. Catholics constitute less than 1 percent of the Pakistani population.

Masih is the first person to be sentenced to death since the death penalty became mandatory in mid-1991 for the use of derogatory remarks directed toward Mohammed.
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Title Annotation:Gul Masih
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Dec 4, 1992
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