Was Risha Mashir framed by Islamist bigots: Pakistan’s anti-human blasphemy laws
RISHA Mashir is 11. Other reports say she is 14. She’s a Christian girl living in Umara Jaffar, Pakistan. If that were not hard enough, Risha Mashir has Downs Syndrome. She’s an easy target. And she’s under arrest, alleged to have burned pages from an Arabic textbook which contained passages from the Koran. Risha Mashir is in Adiala Jail, a prison in Rawalpindi. Is a court finds her guilty of blasphemy, Risha Mashir will be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Under the law, section 295c of the country’s penal code, those accused of blaspheming against the Prophet Mohammed may be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. They are fined in addition.
Was she framed?
Risha’s plight began when someone reported seeing her carrying a shopping bag. They said she threw it away. They said that inside the bag were ten partially-burned pages of the Noorani Qaida, a primer for pupils studying Arabic and the Koran.
Alsyed Muhammad Ummad called the police.
Rashir Mashir was arrested. Her family say they were beaten. Angry heads demanded justice. They wanted Rashir to pay. Christian have fled the area in fear for their lives.
No-one asked why Alsyed Muhammad Ummad looked inside the bag.
Only now Pakistan police have made another arrest. An imam is alleged to have planted the burnt pages of the Koran. Khalid Chishti is behind bars.
Will Rashir be freed?
Rao Abdur Raheem, who specialises in prosecuting blasphemy cases, also represents Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard who killed Salman Taseer, wants a bone scan to determine Rimsha’s precise age. He telle the Times:
“Those who burn the Koran are burning us. This girl has confessed. Even if she is found to be 14 the offence is so serious the law says there cannot be leniency, she cannot have bail.”
“This girl is guilty. If the state overrides the court, then God will get a person to do the job.”
Rashir will be murdered by God’s will. Says the lawyer.
In December 2010, Raheem created a self-described “lawyers’ forum”, called the Movement to Protect the Dignity of the Prophet; according to the New York Times, the group produced a petition in support of Qadri which was signed by a 1,000 lawyers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Members of the group also reportedly ”greeted Mr. Qadri’s… court appearances by throwing rose petals”. The NY Times noted:
…The lawyers’ stance is perhaps just the most glaring expression of what has become a deep generational divide tearing at the fabric of Pakistani society, and of the broad influence of religious conservatism — and even militancy — that now exists among the educated middle class.
They are often described as the Zia generation: Pakistanis who have come of age since the 1980s, when the military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, began to promote Islam in public education and to use it as a political tool to unify this young and insecure nation.
It’s grim for Christian in Pakistan. In September 2011, it was also reported:
A Christian man accused of blasphemy died in a Pakistani prison on Sept. 9, the International Christian Concern announced Tuesday.
Aslam Masih died of a “treatable disease” after officials denied him proper medical care, ICC reported.
He had reportedly died of Dengue virus, an infectious tropical disease.
…Masih was reportedly arrested in 2010 after having been accused of blasphemy by two members of the Tablighi Jammat, an Islamic missionary group.
…The incident added to a row of deaths and arrests related to the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. According to ICC, another Christian man, Qamar David, died in the Pakistani prison in March. Though the authorities cited a heart attack as an official cause, it is believed that he might have been murdered, according to ICC.
Intimidation is rife:
[She] was sitting an Urdu exam which involved a poem about the prophet Muhammad when she dropped a dot on the Urdu word naat (a devotional hymn to the prophet), accidentally turning it into lanaat, or damnation. Spotting the error, her teacher scolded her, beat her and reported the matter to the principal. The news soon flamed through her community in Havelian, 30 miles north of Islamabad.
Mullahs raged against Bhatti in their sermons; a school inquiry was hastily convened to examine the matter. Bhatti was expelled; her mother, a government nurse, was banished to another town, and the family has since fled Havelian in fear of their lives. All over a missing dot.
Remember Asia Bibi.
Image: Frightened Pakistani Christian families flee their home in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. A Christian girl from the same locality was sent to a Pakistani prison after being accused by her furious Muslim neighbors of burning pages of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, in violation of the country’s strict blasphemy laws. According to families they feel threatened and asked by Muslim house owners to vacate their houses. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)