Senators Ask Pakistani Leader to Free Christian Girl Accused of Blasphemy
A bipartisan group of senators today urged Pakistani Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari to free a mentally disabled Christian girl accused of desecrating Koran pages.
Rimsha Masih, 11, is being held in solitary confinement in Islamabad and could be charged with blasphemy, which carries a maximum of the death penalty. The girl was reportedly abused by a mob in her village and Christians had to flee the neighborhood; it's been reported that either she collected the Koran pages while scavenging paper in a waste dump or the pages were maliciously planted in her bag.
"We urge you to take immediate action to ensure the protection and equitable treatment of all Pakistani citizens, regardless of their religion," wrote the senators, led by Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). "...We urge your government to do more to prevent abuse, as blasphemy allegations have resulted in the lengthy detention of, and violence committed against, Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and other religious minorities, as well as members of the Muslim majority community."
Also signing the letter were Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).
"While we do not condone the destruction of any religious document or artifact or the defamation of any religion, the application of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws undermines the State’s obligation to protect the rights of all religious groups in Pakistan and in fact has repeatedly been used to harass and intimidate members of minority religious groups," they wrote. "...These violations run counter to the Pakistani constitution and the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, when he stated 'you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.'”