Save Rimsha Now

My piece which was published a fortnight ago. Today Rimsha was released on bail by a judge. Thank God sanity prevailed. But Rimsha and her family face grave dangers even now. We need to save Rimsha as well as protect the Christian community of Pakistan. Their rights as Pakistani citizens are inviolable.

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As I write these lines, Rimsha Masih, a minor, languishes in an overcrowded jail on charges of blasphemy. Media reports suggest that she is unwell and suffers from Down Syndrome. For a week this case made the headlines with appeals for mercy and justice flowing in from all quarters of the world. But justice and compassion are in short supply for Islamabad’s zealots who got the girl booked in the first place allegedly for burning a “Noorani Qaeda” (a basic introduction to the Holy Quran for children). This is not the only case where someone has been prosecuted for blasphemy. Sadly, nor will this be the last one, given the open-ended and vague law which cannot be questioned.

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Christians mourn after the 2009 killings in Gojra
Christians mourn after the 2009 killings in Gojra
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A man-made colonial law has acquired a ‘holy’ status as if it were Divinely ordained. The British regime had enacted the original law in its own interest to maintain peace in a multi-faith India where religious tensions were rising in the early twentieth century. Instead of reviewing it once we achieved and fortified an Islamic Republic, Zia ul Haq and his followers made it even more stringent.

Human rights groups have been pointing out how this law is open to abuse to settle personal scores, grab land and entitlements of the poor and the marginalized irrespective of their faith. This is why dozens of such cases of blasphemy have been registered against Muslims than non-Muslims in Pakistan. In the 1990s, activist Asma Jahangir’s efforts to protect another young boy led to attacks on her and she had to remain under police protection for a long time. Also in the 1990s, a progressive High Court judge lost his life after he released those accused of blasphemy. […]