Pakistani Christian girl could face death penalty for blasphemy
An 11-year-old Pakistani Christian girl could face the death penalty for allegedly burning sacred Islamic texts.
Rifta Masih was arrested on 16 August following angry demonstrations after neighbours accused her of burning the texts.
This has caused communal tensions, with one senior member of the dominant Muslim community ordering 900 Christians living on the outskirts of Islamabad to leave a neighbourhood where they have lived for over two decades.
Masih’s alleged act sparked demonstrations by crowds of between 600 and 1,000 people. Eventually the police, who were reluctant at first, charged her with blasphemy and took her into custody.
There seems to be a lack of clarity around whether Masih burnt pages from the Qur’an or Qur’anic verses, and a general confusion as to whether the alleged crime actually happened. A local mullah claims there was a witness, a young girl who caught her in the act and raised the alarm within the mosque.
While the BBC and Guardian disagree as to whether the girl has down’s syndrome, Paul Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for National Harmony told the BBC that it seemed “unlikely she purposefully desecrated the Koran”.
If Masih is found guilty, she could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty. However, many accused of blasphemy in the past in Pakistan have been killed by violent mobs before their cases were heard in court.
Politicians advocating reforms to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have also been targeted.
As Masih remains in custody, the Christian community of Mehrabadi say the whole thing is a plot and have conflicting views of the event. Regardless of what actually happened, the future for Masih is very uncertain.