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Christian Pakistani Girl Imprisoned for Blasphemy; Where’s All the Outrage?

Posted on the 22 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
The Pakistani flag The Pakistani flag. Blasphemy laws are draconian in Pakistan. Photocredit: Borislav Bajkic /

The background

Rimsha Mashi, an illiterate 11-year-old girl allegedly with Down’s Syndrome from a family of street sweepers in Islamabad, is now in an adult jail. Her offense was to burn a heap of rubbish, which included a textbook used to teach the Quran. She was arrested – to prevent her from being killed by a mob of about 500 to 600 people. She now could face the death penalty.

Pakistan’s president, reported Gulf News, has called on officials to explain her arrest. Whilst political activists and neigbours of the girl say she is between 10 and 13, the police say she is 16. She has been in custody for a fortnight.  Activists, reported The Independent, say it’s another incident that highlights growing religious intolerance in Pakistan, and the misuse of its draconian blasphemy laws. The laws date back to the regime of Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, and campaigners say that they’re regularly used to “settle personal scores.” Commentators are largely outraged.

Where are all the celebrities in support?

Pussy Riot get jailed, fumed Michael Burleigh in The Mail, and every “superannuated rocker” jumps in; but nobody seems to care about Rimsha Masih. We’ve seen this kind of incitement “so many times – think back to the murderous attacks on all Scandinavians after the cartoons affair.” Many other minorities feel unsafe in Pakistan – Hindus have fled to India; Shia pilgrims have been gunned down by Sunnis. Burleigh said that he hadn’t yet “heard a word from the likes of millionaire socialite … Jemima Khan,” but when he does, he’ll “take them at their own estimation as serious people.”

All Muslims should stand up against intolerance

Asked Mehdi Hasan in The Huffington Post, “What on Allah’s earth is wrong with so many self-professed Muslims in the self-styled Islamic Republic of Pakistan?” It “beggars belief” that this mob should want to “attack a child.” Defenders of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been pointing to reports that say the girl is 16 and doesn’t have Down’s Syndrome – but “so what?” She’s still a child. There are no eyewitnesses to her “crime”, and to sentence her to death for it would be “grossly disproportionate.” What’s behind all this rage? Is God “so weak, so sensitive, so precious?” The Koran is full of stories about Mohammed being insulted – and he didn’t sentence anyone to death for it. Muslims should not be “silent when such flagrant human-rights abuses are committed in the name of Islam.” We should “speak out against hate, intolerance and the bullying of non-Muslim minorities.”

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