Published: 09:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 30 August 2012
Muslim groups in Pakistan speak out for Christian girl accused of blasphemy
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan
“This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that the Muslim community and scholars have stood up for non-Muslims.”Sajid Ishaq, chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League
Islamic groups in Pakistan, including the country’s leading body of Muslim clerics, have come out in support of Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl with Down’s syndrome falsely accused of blasphemy, in an unprecedented and welcome move.
Hundreds of Christians fled Maherabad after Rimsha was accused of blasphemy
The All Pakistan Ulema Council (APUC), which includes representatives from fundamentalist groups, called for an “impartial and thorough investigation into the case” and for “strict action” to be taken against Rimsha’s accusers if she is found innocent.
Other Islamic groups, including Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) and Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, plus the Pakistan Interfaith League, which comprises minority religious groups, have also backed the young Christian girl.
APUC chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi said this was “a test case for Pakistan’s Muslims, Pakistan’s minorities and for the government”. He condemned the mobs who regularly pressurise police into registering blasphemy cases, saying that it was like the “law of the jungle”, and called for the government to “make this case an example so that nobody will dare misuse the blasphemy law in future”.
Mr Ashrafi, who is also part of the leadership of a coalition of Islamist organisations, Defence of Pakistan Council, said:
We don’t want to see injustice done with anyone. We will work to end this climate of fear. The accusers should be proceeded against with full force, so that no one would dare make spurious allegations.
He also spoke out in defence of the hundreds of Christian families who were forced to flee their homes in Maherabad village amid a violent Muslim backlash, urging the government to take action to protect them. Mr Ashrafi said:
This is inhuman that those who have nothing to do with the case or are not a party to it are also being harassed.
Rimsha, who was arrested after being accused on 16 August of burning pages of a Noorani Qaida, a booklet used to learn the basics of the Quran, is being held in a maximum-security jail and is said to be deeply traumatised by her ordeal.
Following a medical examination, Rimsha’s age has been determined as between 13 and 14, though her mental age is below her chronological age. This means that her case will go before a juvenile court, which is likely to treat her with greater leniency.
A court adjourned today (Thursday 30 August) a bail hearing for Rimsha until Saturday (1 September).
Her father, Misrek Masih, has appealed to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon the youngster. He said:
We are afraid for her life… I’m asking President Asif Ali Zadari, who has already called for further attention into my daughter’s case, to pardon her and to prevent other people from being persecuted under these harsh laws like my daughter.