Pakistani Cleric Uses Blasphemy Law to Frame Christian Girl

A 14-year-old girl, Rimsha, was arrested in Pakistan on August 17, 2012 after her neighbor accused her of burning pages which contained text from the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran. It was reported that the neighbor did not actually see Rimsha burn the pages but brought her belongings – shopping bags with ashes and the partially burned pages that Rimsha had been carrying – to the local cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, to be considered as evidence. Rimsha claims she was using the pages as fuel for cooking. The girl was accused of blasphemy and arrested that same day. She currently remains in jail as her attorneys negotiate the possibility of bail.

 

The accusations facing the minor spurred a violent nation-wide reaction from devoted Muslims. Rimsha’s Christian family was forced into hiding. On the day of her arrest, a group of 150 angry Muslims flooded a predominately Christian neighborhood and threatened to burn down their houses. Pakistan’s Penal Code prohibits blasphemy against any recognized religion and repercussions range from the imposition of fines to the death penalty. Accusations and charges of blasphemy have been known to arouse violent threats and attacks from various religious sects. While Pakistan has been criticized for the harshness of its blasphemy laws, the modification of these laws has been strongly resisted, particularly by Islamic parties. Given this, it is no wonder that Pakistan authorities are already planning for Rimsha’s safety should she be released on bail, for fear of retaliation from outraged Muslims.

 

Following Rimsha’s story, recent developments illuminate an interesting twist. Pakistani police claim that the Muslim cleric, Chishti, planted certain evidence to guaranty that Rimsha would be charged with blasphemy. Police allege that Chishti himself tore pages out of the Quran hoping to secure a blasphemy charge against Rimsha, fearing that pages with Quran text alone would not be sufficient grounds to invoke a blasphemy charge and impose punishment. Three witnesses were able to corroborate this claim; a judge is currently addressing these accusations and the cleric taken into custody. Given these recent accusations, there is a stronger chance that a judge may grant bail for Rimsha. Authorities are also looking into whether she had a medical condition and whether she was even aware that the burned pages contained text from the Quran; police investigators believe that Rimsha was illiterate. Chishti, it seems, did a horrible job of choosing his victim.

 

One would ask, why would a Muslim cleric want to frame an innocent teenage girl? Pakistan’s blasphemy laws seem to provide an answer, in that Muslims may be using the laws and their grave consequences to entrap minorities. In the United States, we use our laws to prevent intimidation. Take, for example, our laws forbidding cross-burning; this action is technically protected speech, unless it is proven that the insignia burning was intended to intimidate or harm another. In Pakistan, religious followers are using the laws themselves to produce the same sense of fear and intimidation. Does anybody else see something wrong here?

Source: CNN

 

5 comments

  1. I agree with Amanda. The stringency of these blasphemy laws is painfully outdated. Minorities in Pakistan should not have to fear for their lives based on the risk of being framed for violating one of these laws. Fortunately, as of today, Rimsha has been released on bail, and her framer is being held without bail for violating blasphemy laws himself. It appears that justice will prevail in this situation. However, being that this innocent 14-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome was imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, in a Muslim cleric’s attempt to remove Christians from the area, I think it is obvious that the severity of these often corruptly enforced blasphemy laws needs to change immediately. It is gratifying to see a situation where the Pakistani people are actually supporting a person who has been convicted of blasphemy, but despite likely acquittal, Rimsha will still have to flee her home to evade inevitable assailants. As of now, Rimsha has been taken to her house and is being guarded by an escort of security. This entire ordeal is just an awfully sad example of the dreadful effects of religious persecution.
    Source: TheInternationalNews

  2. The Pakistani laws regarding blasphemy on their surface seem to provide protection of all religions, however, the enforcement of these laws seems to occur only in favor of Islamic followers as the post suggests. The blasphemy law itself also demonstrates the influence Pakistani religious and cultural beliefs have on the law. Clearly, this is a country that holds the protection of religion in high regard, as evidenced by the possibility of punishment by death penalty. The reality remains, however, that the enforcement of the laws must be carefully monitored, given the predominance of the Muslim population in Pakistan. Protection of religious symbols and scriptures is a serious consideration in Pakistan and the fact that the scriptures belonged to the tradition of Islam incites greater dangers to the enforcement of these laws. As word spreads of the blasphemy charge, the predominant religious group can become angered and inflamed, and use their resources to push for a charge. Even if the government and judicial officials are able to protect and individual like Rimsha, the local and day to day dealings of such individuals become perilous. The reality is, when a minority religion’s follower burns the text or scripture of a majority religion’s follower in a country such as Pakistan, the enforcement of the blasphemy law has to be meticulous and detached, in order to avoid injustice that extends past the boundaries of the legal ramifications.

  3. Rimsha Masih walked free on Friday and is given protection by Government. She was freed after another Muslim cleric testified in her favour. It shows certain notorious individuals may be trying to entrap minorities and not the whole nation.
    She is almost certain to be taken to some foreign country. This makes blasphemy lucrative for certain people. This brings in fame and foreign nationality..Too much desired items in poor countries like Pakistan

  4. While I am glad to see the release of Rimsha I am afraid that this case is more of the exception than the rule. I agree with Amanjit that because the Pakistani have such strong feelings about religious law each case needs to be carefully monitored to prevent abuse. One way that may help is to lower the punishments; by removing the death penalty and instead possibly increasing the amount on the fines there would be less incentive for the majority groups to abuse the law. But no matter what the change is, action needs to be taken immediately to prevent further persecution.

  5. There have been suggestions from the blog comments that the enforcement of blasphemy laws need to be closely monitored and in some instances changed. That in their current form and in the manner in which they are enforced, the laws are leading to an injustice. My question is, who do we look to for changing these laws? Pakistan is a democratic parliamentary federal republic. They have a bicameral legislature consisting of a Senate and a General Assembly. The President is elected by an electoral college. If that country feels that the laws they have in place are what they want, who are we to impose our standards of jurisprudence on them given the fact that they live in a democracy? Are any of these laws in their current form a violation of some international treaty of human rights that we have with Pakistan that would justify our interference? I do not believe so. Are the writers of the comments suggesting that the international community step in anyway, in the interest of justice, and force Pakistan to change its laws if Pakistan is not willing to do so? Probably not because that would be very illegal. How then would the suggestions in the posts be implemented if the Pakistani government does not want to implement them due to their unpopularity?

    My humble suggestion is that one must have faith in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCOP). Much like our Supreme Court, in reference to the previous comment on cross burning from, I believe, Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003), the SCOP can decide for themselves when the right time will be to find parts of the blasphemy law unconstitutional.

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