Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Anti-blasphemy laws create monsters: case report from Pakistan

This post is to illustrate the inevitable consequences of anti-blasphemy laws and other violations of free speech allowing authorities and vigilantes to silence people by force. I learned about the Pakistani girl's story from the Mogilino blog, to which I am redirecting Bulgarian readers. In this disability advocacy blog, activists published an open letter urging Bulgarian government institutions to stand publicly in defence of a young disabled girl threatened by a harsh sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan. Below, I am copy-pasting media reports.

"Girl held in Pakistan, accused of burning Quran pages
By Katie Hunt and Nasir Habib, CNN
Mon August 20, 2012
An 11-year-old Christian girl has been arrested after being accused of blasphemy by burning pages of the Quran in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.
According to a statement released by the president's office Sunday, the girl, identified as Ramsha, was accused by a local resident of burning pages of the Muslim holy text after she gathered paper as fuel for cooking.
Local media reports said the girl has Down syndrome. CNN was unable to confirm these reports, and a local police official said they are not true.
Qasim Niazi, the police officer in charge of the station near where the incident took place, said the girl does not have a mental disorder but is illiterate and has not attended school.
The accused girl had told him she had no idea there were pages of the Quran inside the documents she burned, he added.
Niazi said that 150 people had gathered on Friday where the neighborhood's Christian population lives and threatened to burn down their houses.
"The mob wanted to burn the girl to give her a lesson," he told CNN.
Other Christian families living in the area have fled fearing a backlash, he added..."

BBC News, 8 September 2012
A Christian girl in Pakistan who was arrested on blasphemy charges has been released from prison in Rawalpindi, a minister has said.
On Friday a judge ordered her release and set bail at about $10,500 (£6,200).
The girl, thought to be 14 years old but with a younger mental age, was arrested last month after a mob accused her of burning pages of the Koran.
Last week an imam was remanded in custody, accused of planting burned pages of the Koran in the girl's bag.
The case against the girl, known as Rimsha, has sparked international alarm and has been condemned by human rights groups.
Blasphemy is not a bailable offence but her lawyers pleaded that she was a juvenile.
The girl's lawyer said she had been released after two guarantors posted a bond against assurances that she would reappear in court, the AFP news agency said.
Pakistan's minister for national harmony said the girl was transported by helicopter to a safe location where she was met by her family.
Her father had previously said he feared for his daughter's life and for the safety of his family.
Rimsha's parents were taken into protective custody at an undisclosed location following threats. Many other Christian families fled the neighbourhood after her arrest.
Rights activists have long urged Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws, under which a person can be jailed for life for desecrating the Koran.
In March 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, was killed after calling for the repeal of the blasphemy law.
His death came just two months after the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who also spoke out about the issue.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are Muslim.
In the past accusations of blasphemy have led to vigilante killings by mobs."

I don't think these reports need any comments, just wish to mention that the otherwise fine BBC report is marred by a misleading, politically correct and factually incorrect title. Had I read only the title, I would think that the girl has been released unconditionally and has no more troubles with the law.

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