Pakistani Professor Faces Death Sentence for Blasphemy

Article excerpt

A professor who has written articles about the history of Islam and its founder Mohammed faces blasphemy charges and a possible death sentence in Pakistan.

Dr. Younus Shaikh, a teacher at a medical college in Islamabad, was arrested Oct. 4 and charged under Section 295-C of Pakistan's Penal Code, which outlaws blasphemy. Although the specific charges against Shaikh are not yet known, they are believed to have stemmed from articles he has written pointing out that Mohammed did not embrace Islam until age 40 and that his parents were not Muslims because they died before the religion was founded.

Shaikh, 45, has been dismissed from his job and faces a virulent campaign against him by a newspaper called Khabrain, which has demanded that he receive the death penalty. In Pakistan, those accused of blasphemy are not eligible for bail, and if they are convicted, death is the automatic sentence.

Shaikh is currently in custody at a jail in Rawalpindi. At his first appearance in court Oct. …