By Frank Crimi
After being acquitted in January 2013 of blasphemy charges, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has now reopened the case against Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl believed to suffer from mental disabilities.
Rimsha’s case had drawn international attention as well as corresponding outrage after the young girl was arrested at her home in August 2012 and charged with blasphemy upon being accused by a Muslim neighbor of allegedly burning pages from a Koran.
It should be noted that running afoul of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws can earn sentences of death or life in prison for those convicted of desecrating Islam’s holy book or insulting its Prophet Muhammad.
For her part, Rimsha, who worked as a maid at the time, denied through her attorney any blasphemous wrongdoing, claiming she was simply burning garbage and “did not know a Koranic book was among the papers because she cannot read.”
Moreover, Pakistan’s Minister for National Harmony, Paul Bhatti, said that given Rimsha’s mental disorder, it was unlikely the young girl had “purposefully desecrated the Koran.”
Unfortunately, Rimsha’s illiteracy and mental impairment were not persuasive enough arguments in which to prevent Pakistani police from incarcerating the young girl for the alleged heretical act.
Yet, in September 2012, Rimsha’s case seemingly took a turn for the better when Pakistani police arrested a local Muslim cleric, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, and charged him with planting the burned Koranic pages in an effort to frame Rimsha.
According to a police official Chishti “put pages into the ashes, showed them to the people of the area, and gathered them to attack the girl’s house.”
Those charges were corroborated by three officials from Chishti’s mosque who told a judge that Chishti’s attempt to incriminate Rimsha was part of a broader plan by the cleric to oust Christians living in the poor Mehrabad neighborhood of Islamabad where Rimsha and her family lived.
Of course, that revelation most likely raised few eyebrows given that Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes are often used and abused to either settle personal scores or as weapons in which persecute religious minorities, such as Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis.
Still, the officials testified that they had urged Chishti to not go through with his plan, efforts which apparently had little effect on the Imam who reportedly replied, “You know, this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area.”….