People of Northwest Public Radio
Fri September 7, 2012
Bail Granted For Christian Pakistani Girl Accused Of Blasphemy Against Islam
The young Pakistani girl who has been in custody for about two weeks after neighbors accused her of burning some Islamic religious materials has been granted bail by a judge in Islamabad.
But NPR's Jackie Northam reports that the bail set today — the equivalent of about $10,000 — is an "enormous sum here in Pakistan." So it's uncertain whether Rimsha Masih will be out of jail anytime soon.
As we've previously reported, Rimsha has what some news outlets have described as Down Syndrome while others refer to her as "mentally impared." Her age has been reported as being as young as 11 and as old as 16. In court today, Jackie reports, she was referred to several times as being 14. It's not clear that she knew what she allegedly burned — or even that she did what she's accused of. There have been reports that the accusations may have been motivated by some neighbors' desire to push a small community of Christians out of an Islamabad slum. Protests in the slum following the accusations against Rimsha led the Christians to go into hiding.
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reminds readers today that "the girl has been in custody since she was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb more than two weeks ago after being accused of burning papers containing verses from the holy Quran."
As The Guardian has reported, Pakistan's blasphemy law allows for the death penalty to be imposed if someone is judged guilty of desecrating the Quran or other Islamic materials. And:
"[The law] has a proven track record of ensnaring people on the flimsiest of evidence and being cynically used to intimidate communities or settle quarrels over money and property. Even though no one has yet been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, long prison terms are common – one Christian couple was sentenced to 25 years in 2010 after being accused of touching the Quran with unwashed hands."