September 7, 2012

24RNSC: Muslim Leaders Back Pakistani Christian Girl

Muslim Leaders Back
Pakistani Christian Girl

BY STAFF                                                                                                                             ©2012 Baptist Press

Muslim clerics and scholars--including representatives of radical groups--have voiced support for a Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy. An official medical review, meanwhile, has revealed she has mental difficulties.

According to media reports, the All Pakistan Ulema Council, an organization of Muslim clerics and scholars, denounced the climate of fear and vigilantism surrounding Rimsha Masih, who was accused of blasphemy for burning religious texts and then arrested when an irate mob demanded action. The facts of the case--including what the young girl burned while cleaning--are in doubt, and some media reports say she has Down syndrome.

"The law of the jungle is taking over now and anybody can be accused of anything," Allama Tahir Ashrafi, chair of the council, told the BBC.

He called on the government to impartially investigate the accusations and punish the accusers if they falsely pointed the finger, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail.

"We see Rimsha as a test case for Pakistan's Muslims, Pakistan's minorities and for the government," Ashrafi told a news conference in Islamabad, according to the McClatchy news service. "We don't want to see injustice done with anyone. We will work to end this climate of fear. The accusers should be proceeded against with full force, so that no one would dare make spurious allegations."

Ashrafi's support of Masih is all the more remarkable considering his extremist ties. According to McClatchy, Ashrafi also is part of the leadership of the Defense of Pakistan Council, a coalition of Islamic groups including some thinly-disguised outlawed militant organizations.

The fact that Muslim mullahs--even radical leaders--were defending Masih was not lost on Sajid Ishaq, chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League, which includes Christian, Sikh, and other religious minorities.

"This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that Muslim community and scholars have stood up for non-Muslims," Ishaq told McClatchy. "We are together, demanding justice, demanding an unbiased investigation."

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