11-Year-Old Pakistani Christian Girl Remains Jailed
Controversy continues to swirl around Pakistan's blasphemy law after the arrest of a young Christian girl for allegedly defiling words from the Quran, Baptist Press reports. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has asked the country's Interior Ministry for a report about the August 16 arrest of Rimsha Masih, described in various media reports as an 11-year-old with Down syndrome. The case began when Rimsha's landlord's nephew said he saw her holding a burned copy of an Islamic religious text that included quoations from the Quran, then informed a local cleric who gathered a mob and demanded the police take action. Rimsha was arrested and charged with blasphemy, and her parents were placed in protective custody. Though Pakistani police and government officials say the accusations are baseless and the case will probably be dropped, Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, suggested an ominous fate for the girl. Any person accused of blasphemy -- especially Christians and other religious minorities -- faces murder by vigilantes even if he or she is merely accused or even acquitted. The high rate of vigilantism surrounding the blasphemy law serves as an easy way to persecute religious minorities with false accusations or settle personal scores, various media noted. According to reports, hundreds of Christians have fled Rimsha's neighborhood in fear of attacks by angry Muslims, and it is likely she and her family will never be able to return home.