Sunday, September 2, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Sept 3, 2012

False accusation The alleged blasphemy charge against 14-year old Rimsha Masih suffering from Down syndrome that landed her in Adiala Jail has now taken a strange turn. The mosque imam who made the accusation that she had burnt pages of the Holy Quran now stands exposed as a fraud, cheat, and author of a false accusation. His exposure came when Hafiz Zubair, the muezzin of the mosque of which Khalid Janoon is the imam, recorded his statement before a magistrate that the complainant Malik Hammad had brought a plastic bag to the imam containing burnt pages of a school textbook that allegedly contained Quranic verses. The imam added some pages from the Quran to the bag to, as he put it, strengthen the case and induce the mass exodus of the Christian community from the locality. Two more witnesses have also deposed that they all tried to persuade the imam not to doctor the ‘evidence’, but he insisted. The imam has since been arrested and sent on judicial remand for 14 days. Meanwhile the poor Rimsha continues to suffer the trauma of being held in jail since even if it is conceded for the sake of argument that the police arrested her and sent her to jail to save her from the rage of the mob that wanted to burn her alive for alleged blasphemy, our creaking judicial process has so far not been able to free her on bail, at the very least, because of bureaucratic paperwork delays and anomalies regarding her legal representation. Each day the poor victim of this trumped up charge spends in jail is further torture for a poor little Christian girl suffering from a mental affliction. The incident has traumatised the entire Christian community in the country, but especially in Gojra, a village in Punjab that was the recipient of mob violence against its Christian community on similar blasphemy calumnies in 2009. The traumatised survivors of that horror in Gojra have had all their worst nightmares revived and freshened in their deeply wounded memories. Meanwhile a bipartisan group of seven US Senators has urged President Asif Ali Zardari, who had taken notice of the incident, to help in the release of little Rimsha. To those who always raise the objection that foreign countries, and especially the US, have no business poking their noses in our internal affairs, it is time to point out to them that the world is now an interconnected one. The so-called ‘butterfly effect’ means anything that happens in any corner of the world is bound to attract the attention of the world community, especially in the context, to which the US Senators referred, of the treatment of our religious minorities. If we allow malign elements in our society to carry out such obvious acts of false accusation for ulterior purposes against innocent victims, we can hardly expect anything but brickbats. The question arises after the unmasking of the Imam’s evil act whether his motive was religious or material. On the basis of the eye witness accounts, it becomes obvious that religion had little to do with it and material interests were central to the mischief. The attempt to create a situation that would drive the Christian community away out of fear would benefit those who coveted their houses and the land they live on. For such mundane considerations are the blasphemy laws abused time and gain. Unfortunately, in the rapid decline into a madhouse that our society is witnessing, calls for repeal/reform of the much abused blasphemy laws cost Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti their lives. How many Salmaan Taseers and Shahbaz Bhattis would have to be sacrificed before sense prevails? How many more Aasia bibis and Rimshas must suffer the torment of false accusation before society and the state wake up to the catastrophic consequences and open misuse and abuse of the blasphemy laws that is taking a heavy toll of our sanity and image worldwide?

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