On the Rise: Islamists Scapegoating Children for Blasphemy
The latest Muslim mob violence mobilized by religious clerics over the video Innocence of Muslims was indeed disturbing. However, the more troubling issue that merits true outrage is the uptick of Islamists targeting children with charges of desecration or blasphemy as a means to intimidate local non-Muslims.
The shocking October 9 attack on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani 14-year old girl, sparked worldwide outrage. Islamist militants came to her school and shot her in the head and neck for "promoting Western culture"; several of the girl's classmates were injured in the attack. Al-Qaeda’s media arm publicized its reasoning for the need to kill Malala, claiming it was not her educational activism, but rather that she “had denounced jihad” and thus insulted Islam. Young Malala was airlifted to the UK for treatment, and for fear of further harm to her and her family.
The zealotry of these defenders of the Muslim faith extends to all who would defame their prophet, including young children. One would think that children, in some cases illiterate, could never be judged responsible for such heinous acts, punishable by death according to sharia (Islamic law) and Pakistan law under Section 295-C. Unfortunately, poor Malala is not alone in being a young child targeted for the crime of insulting Islam.
Perhaps October was "Defile the Quran month," as a number of cases have appeared recently of non-Muslim children in Muslim countries accused of desecration or blasphemy against Islam.
October 1, Bangladesh: Angry over a Facebook photo of the Quran rumored to have been tagged by a young boy, Muslim mobs set fires in at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes.
Oct 3, Egypt: Two Coptic Christian boys (Nabil Rizk, 10, and Mina al-Farag, 9) were arrested for the crime of urinating on the Quran. Angry mobs gathered outside the police station, causing security to be dispatched to the village. Following international coverage, the boys were released, but are still charged with the crime.
October 8, Karachi, Pakistan: 16-year-old Ryan Stanten was arrested for forwarding an offensive text message deemed blasphemous. Angry crowds ransacked and burned his family home.
October 12, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: 14-year-old Emmanuel Josephat was arrested for urinating on the Quran. In response to the alleged defilement, ten churches were attacked and burned, car windows were smashed, and passersby were harmed. The angry mob then rallied outside the police station, demanding that the boy be released to them with the intent of beheading him. His beleaguered mother pleaded: “I admit my son made a foolish mistake – a mistake that could have been made by any child”.
In several of these cases, the mob turned violent following Friday prayers, raising the possibility that they rioted with the coordination of their religious leaders. In fact, accusations of insulting Islam have increased particularly against Christians since the Innocence of Muslims film trailer was produced by a Coptic Christian (currently incarcerated in the U.S. supposedly for violating his probation, but suspiciously coincidental with Muslim world leaders clamoring for his arrest).
The similar pattern and motivations of these incidents are clear. Religious Islamic leaders utilize copycat tactics that circulate amongst Islamist groups in order to foment hatred and violence among their constituents and manipulate the political arena.
The proof of imam complicity appears in the case of a young Pakistani girl with Downs’s syndrome, Rimsha Masih, arrested and detained for weeks in August for setting fire to papers that contained Quranic verses. The resulting mobs caused over 600 Christians to flee the area to the forests in fear. As it turned out, the local imam had falsely accused the girl as a pretext “to expel the Christians from the area.” The imam has since been released on bail, while Rimsha and her family remain in hiding.
There is also indication that blasphemy charges instigated the abduction of a young boy, Samuel Yaqoob, an 11 year old from Christian Faisalabad, several days after Rimsha’s arrest. Samuel was brutally tortured and burned to death. In the Egyptian Coptic children’s case, a local Islamist leader, Shamardal, insisted that the “two boys could not have acted alone and that they must remain in custody until they confess who incited them.” Raymond Ibrahim has documented the distribution of leaflets in Egypt calling on "all brothers and sisters" to "kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah—the Christians in all of Egypt's provinces, the slaves of the Cross."
These campaigns against Christians and Buddhists are not new, and have been ongoing long before the latest parody of Islam video. Although initially posted to YouTube in July 2012, it was appropriated only in September by the Egyptian Islamists. Islamist clerics continually strive for ever more creative ways of inciting violence and causing intimidation amongst unbelievers; and currently accusing children is "all the rage." It stands to reason that more such instances will be forthcoming as long as Islamist religious leaders encourage violence in a bid to ensure the dominance of Islam.
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