Foreign Policy

Muslim Cleric Arrested for Framing 11-year old Developmentally Challenged Christian Girl in Pakistan Blasphemy Case

Like many people, I’ve been following the horrendous story out of Pakistan about the developmentally challenged 11-year-old girl who was accused of burning pages from the Koran. Previous reports said that she was arrested partly for the investigation of the claim, but also to protect her from the angry mob clamoring for her death.

While the case might have gotten better for her, it’s reached a pretty evil dimension:

From Reuters [emphasis added]:

 A Christian girl who was arrested under Pakistan’s controversial anti-blasphemy law may have moved a step closer to freedom on Sunday after police detained a Muslim cleric on suspicion of planting evidence to frame her.

Still, Rimsha Masih, whose arrest last month angered religious and secular groups worldwide, may be in danger if she returns from jail to her village.

Some Muslim neighbors insist she should still be punished, and said the detained imam was a victim.

Under Muslim Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law, the mere allegation of causing offence to Islam can mean death. Those accused are sometimes killed by members of the public even if they are found innocent by the courts.

“Pour petrol and burn these Christians,” said Iqbal Bibi, 74, defending the imam on the steps of the mosque where he preaches in Masih’s impoverished village of Mehr Jaffer.

“The cleric of the mosque has been oppressed. He is not at fault. He is innocent.”

Masih was accused by Muslim neighbors of burning Islamic religious texts and arrested, but on Sunday police official Munir Hussain Jafri said a cleric had been taken into custody after witnesses reported he had torn pages from a Koran and planted them in Masih’s bag beside burned papers.

The imam, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, appeared briefly in court on Sunday before he was sent to jail for a 14-day judicial remand.


A bail hearing will be held on Monday for Masih, whose case has re-focused a spotlight on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law, under which anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad commits a crime punishable by death.

Activists and human rights groups say vague terminology has led to its misuse, and that the law dangerously discriminates against the country’s tiny minority groups.

Critics of Pakistan’s leaders say they are too worried about an extremist backlash to speak out against the law in a nation where religious conservatism is increasingly prevalent.

Incredible turn of events, and very despicable. It confirms many of the darker stereotypes of the region that the Left likes to dismiss and ignore. 

“If the cleric gets charged in this case we are all behind him. There will be unrest,” warned Tasleem Maqbool, a woman in a black veil who said her daughter saw Masih throwing away trash that included burned religious materials.

Village clerics like Chishti hold far more sway over Pakistanis than government officials. They lead prayers and give guidance on many aspects of life.

“The cleric should be freed,” said Noman, a 12-year-old boy wearing a t-shirt and shorts as bearded men gathered at the village mosque and barefoot children played nearby.

“She (Masih) should be punished.”

Read more here.

While it’s encouraging that there was the will and interest of the authorities to investigate the defense of the girl in light of the pressure from the angry mob, one wonders if that, similarly, is purely for sectarian motivations.

I hope and pray the truth prevails, and the Christian girl is not punished for her religion, though from the reactions from the villagers make me think even if the charges are dropped, that she’ll not lead a happy life among such extremists.