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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Does Madonna Care about Young Pakistani Girl Lynched and Imprisoned for Being Christian?

No protest from Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sting, Peter Gabriel and others of their ilk here.

Of course, a Christian 11-year-old girl with Down's Syndrome beaten up by a mob, arrested and put in jail in Pakistan, facing the death penalty for having allegedly burnt pages of Islam's Holy Book, under the country's blasphemy laws - portrayed as "strict" by the Western media but in fact simply following the Quran as good Muslims should - is not remotely as bad as a bunch of talentless, publicity-seeking, balaclava-wearing female hooligans trespassing into the Christian Orthodox Cathedral which is the symbol of Russia's liberation from state-imposed atheism, barging into its sanctuary containing the altar, offending the congregation with a vulgar and insulting song and dance full of expletives mocking a Christian prayer and then, after having shown their courage by denying their presence in the church, eventually having to face the consequences of their criminal actions.

First, the facts. The girl, Rimsha, living in a poor outlying district of Islamabad, is accused by her Muslim neighbours of burning pages of the Quran, of which police officials say there is little evidence.
But hundreds of angry neighbors [500 to 600, according to the police] gathered outside the girl's home last week demanding action in a case raising new concerns about religious extremism in this conservative Muslim country. [Emphasis mine; note the term "conservative" in this context]
The police intervened apparently for her protection, because the angry mob wanted to set her alight. As even the BBC says, in Pakistan just being accused of blasphemy, even without solid evidence, carries a death sentence from the mob, if not the state.
Almost everyone in the girl's neighborhood insisted she had burned the Quran's pages, even though police said they had found no evidence of it. One police official, Qasim Niazi, said when the girl was brought to the police station, she had a shopping bag that contained various religious and Arabic-language papers that had been partly burned, but there was no Quran.

Some residents claimed they actually saw burnt pages of Quran _ either at the local mosque or at the girl's house. Few people in Pakistan actually speak or read Arabic, so often assume that anything they see with Arabic script is believed to be from the Quran, sometimes the only Arabic-language book people have seen.
As many as 600 Christians have fled their homes in the area where the girl lives, fearing for their lives.

It is well known that in Pakistan blasphemy laws are often used to harass and persecute non-Muslims, especially Christians, and even for personal vendettas.
"It has been exploited by individuals to settle personal scores, to grab land, to violate the rights of non-Muslims, to basically harass them," said the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zora Yusuf.

Those convicted of blasphemy can spend years in prison and often face mob justice by extremists when they finally do get out. In July, thousands of people dragged a man accused of desecrating the Quran from a police station in the central city of Bahawalpur, beat him to death and then set his body on fire.
Actually, he was burnt alive
Attempts to revoke or alter the blasphemy laws have been met with violent opposition. Last year, two prominent political figures who spoke out against the laws were killed in attacks that basically ended any attempts at reform.

The girl's jailing terrified her Christian neighbors, many of whom left their homes in fear after the incident. One resident said Muslims used to object to the noise when Christians sang songs during their services. After the girl was accused he said senior members of the Muslim community pressured landlords to evict Christian tenants.
Pakistan's Minister for National Harmony (you need an office like that in a Muslim country) Dr Paul Bhatti is the brother of murdered Minister of Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, the country's only Christian government minister, killed for criticizing the blasphemy laws. The Minister said to the BBC that he really fears an umpteenth tragedy, and that the girl with her family should be taken to a safe place possibly out of Pakistan.

There are so many things to say on this, I don't even know where to start.

The media, Western and non, are incredible: they call Pakistan's blasphemy laws "strict" and Pakistan "conservative", not "Christianophobic", "racist", "fascist", "nazi", although in this case these terms, much overemployed (changing "Christianophobic" for some other "phobic") and inappropriately used in the public discourse, would for once be apt.

Somebody who, in a moment of rage during a heated row accompanied by verbal abuse on both sides, utters the word "nigger" (and, if he is the captain of the England football team, even just the word "black") is "racist" and risks being dragged to court; someone who beats up and tries to burn alive Rimsha is "conservative".

Does that sound right to you? Are you sure that the media you read and watch help you to make sense of the world we live in, or do they instead confuse the picture completely?

The behaviour of the Muslim mob in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city, not some remote rural area, also deserves some reflections.

Who should reflect, in particular, are those who like to talk of great differences between radical and moderate Muslims, and of Islam as a jolly nice religion "highjacked" by what Robert Spencer calls its "misunderstanders".

From the many episodes of this kind that we've seen for a long time, it's obvious that in Pakistan Muslim people who hold these "extreme" views on blasphemy are not extreme at all, in the sense that either they are in effect a majority or their views are tolerated and accepted by a majority, so much so that they are reflected in the law of the country.

If you want to have an idea of the relative numbers, while fewer than 100 demonstrated in Karachi to condemn the murder in 2011 of Minister of Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, thousands rallied in major Pakistani cities demanding punishment for Asia Bibi (a Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy) and threatening further protests and anarchy if the government moves to amend the blasphemy laws, and nearly 50,000 rallied in Karachi against the amendment of blasphemy laws and hailing Qadri, the killer of Salman Taseer, the provincial governor who was trying to achieve that amendment, as a hero.

If you want to do something about the fate of Rimsha and her family, the Asian Human Rights Commission has a sample letter and relevant email, fax, address contact details (via Jihad Watch).

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