Blasphemy, Rimsha Masih, minor with mental problems. Bishop of Islamabad: a positive outcome
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A "positive development" in the case that has given some hope, but the main goal remains "the end of the abuses committed in the name of blasphemy laws" in Pakistan. So says Msgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawapindi, commenting to AsiaNews on the outcome of the Medical Commission report in the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused for having burned pages bearing some inscriptions from the Koran. Meanwhile, human rights activists and members of civil society have criticized the procedural system used by the police, who charged the girl with breaking the law, under pressure from Islamic extremist fringe. A mode of operation branded as the "law of the jungle" by some Muslim leaders who have joined the call of Christians and the international community for her release.
The hearing to
decide on the release of Rimsha Masih, a mentally disabled Christian indicted
for blasphemy (see AsiaNews 19/08/2012 An
11-year-old disabled Christian girl arrested for blasphemy, 300 families flee), scheduled for today has been postponed
to August 30 , due to technical issues, such as the submission of the defense
medical report to judges. The girl stopped in a slum in Islamabad suffers from a mental disorder and
has a brother and a sister older. The parents and the rest of the family are
still alive, but they are being held in a secret location in fear of
The team of experts, appointed by the Islamabad court, visited the child to assess her age and mental health. The first results made public reveal that Rimsha Masih is a minor, aged "between 13 to 14 years." With regard to her health, the doctors determined that her mental age does not match her chronological age, but it is not clear "whether she can be considered disabled" or psychophysically retarded. However, these are the two key aspects for her release and the cancellation of pending charges, under which she faces up to life in prison. It is likely that her lawyer will now appeal for her release, given that because of her age and mental condition she can no longer be held responsible - even if she had torn or burned passages of the holy book - under civil or criminal law.
For the bishop of Islamabad it is a "positive development" that will lead to the transfer of the case to a juvenile court. "We pray for her release," adds Msgr. Rufin Anthony, who invites Christian MPs to "take steps" to "stop the abuses" committed in the name of the blasphemy laws. "Last Sunday we prayed a special prayer for her - said the prelate, turning his thoughts to Rimsha - and it's time to stick together and fight for the cause." An appeal shared by Haroon Barket, who denounced "violations" in the opening of the police investigation, under pressure from extremist elements. "In Pakistan, being accused of blasphemy - he said - is equivalent to the sentence. We demand the immediate release of Rimsha Masih and a reform of the blasphemy laws."
Pakistani Islamic movements and religious leaders ì - including the All
Pakistan Ulema Council (Apuc) and the Pakistan Interfaith League - support the
cause of the young Christian girl appealing for her release and acquittal of
all charges. On the other hand, they want those who slandered the girl indicted
and brought before justice.
Apuc Chairman Tahir Ashrafi, together with representatives of the Defense Council of Pakistan (DCP), strongly condemn crowd pressure on the police to open an investigation (see AsiaNews 24/08/2012 Pakistani Muslims: Disabled 11 yr-old Christian should be punished). He adds that these indiscriminate accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan are the logic of the "law of the jungle", where the strongest implement their own justice against the weaker. "The story of Rimsha is emblematic for Muslims in Pakistan - said Ashrafi - for minorities and the government. We do not want any more cases of injustice. And we will work to put an end to this climate of fear."