(AsiaNews) - If guilty of blasphemy, the child should be punished according to
the laws of the country. This
is a widespread view among Muslims in Pakistan, whether laymen or religious
leaders, regarding the tragedy of an 11
year old Christian girl who is disabled and was recently charged under the
"black law". To
date the child is being detained under lock and key in a reform school -
pending a full hearing for release on bail - for desecrating a few pages of a
book that conatined verses from the Koran (see AsiaNews 19/08/2012 An
11-year-old disabled Christian girl arrested for blasphemy, 300 families flee). Interviewed
by AsiaNews on the issue scholar Mehmood Ahmed Khan, a member of the Islamic
Ideology Council (IIc), said that "Rimsha is a minor, but if she is
mentally stable and committed the crime, child or not she should be
adds, "no one can be allowed to desecrate the Koran."
Several human rights organizations, including the Masihi Foundation and Life for All, along with the Catholic Church of Pakistan have announced a demonstration tomorrow in Lahore on August 25, demanding the release of Rimsha Masih - this is the name of the girl, arrested on blasphemy charges - and who faces up to life in prison. The incident occurred on August 17 in Umara Jaffar, G-12 Islamabad, where the family of the minor live. In response, a mob of local Muslims - egged on by the imams - attacked the Christian community, forcing hundreds of families to flee.
Bishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi has launched a call: "it is time for the entire Christian community to unite and string around the child. Sunday - adds the prelate - our voices will be heard in support thereof." Meanwhile, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has appointed parliamentarian Tahir Naveed Chaudhry lawyer to Rimsha. He assures us that "we will defend the rights of the oppressed" and has prepared "a panel of experts to plead the case." It is a "delicate matter," says the lawyer, but he is optimistic and promises "good news soon."
However, sources say that the APMA lawyer was not allowed meet the child in prison. Now the goal is to get her out of jail and put it in a safe place, since the vast majority of blasphemy deaths are the result of extra-judicial killings, even in prison under the gaze of guards (see AsiaNews 17/09 / 2009 Punjab: young Christian man accused of blasphemy killed in prison). The Christian NGO World Vision in Progress has filed an appeal for bail, which will be discussed on 28 August.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Christian families forced to flee in fear of extremist attacks, accuse the government of neglect and disinterest, despite government proclamations in recent days that ensured comfort and help. Islamabad has announced the distribution of food aid, but so far "has not done anything," says a witness. There is a climate of "insecurity" among the people and they do not "trust to return to their homes." Meanwhile, the police have opened an investigation against 150 people suspected of the assault on the Christian Quarter of the capital when word got out of the blasphemy case.
Among the Muslims of Islamabad feelings toward the religious minority are mixed: some are willing to "accept" the return of the Christians in their homes, others do not. But on one point I agree the faithful who flock to mosques around the capital: if the girl is guilty, "to be punished according to law." No discounts or extenuating circumstances.