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04/19/2007


Pakistani Girl Arrested For Blasphemy Released On Bail

Rimsha:MasihThe Pakistani Christian girl named either Rimshah or Masih, who was arrested near Islamabad three weeks ago for allegedly burning pages of a Qur'an to start a cooking fire, has been released on bail. The release comes nearly a week after a cleric from the girl's town, Imam Khalid Chishti, was arrested for framing the girl. From Haaretz:

A judge in Islamabad had granted Masih bail on Friday, but her release was delayed due to a procedural delay in the processing of surety bonds totaling 1 million Pakistani rupees (10,640 dollars).

... a Muslim cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, was arrested [last] weekend for allegedly planting pages of the Koran in a bag containing burnt papers to frame the girl.

Imam Chishti has rejected the allegations by members of his mosque as "fabricated." But his accusers allege the cleric himself desecrated the Koran in an attempt to drive out the Christian minority from the neighborhood.

Last week, I speculated that Masih/Rimsha's release from prison may be delayed due to authorities' concern for her safety. (After her arrest, many of Masih's Muslim neighbors publicly called for her to be burnt to death.) Indeed, Masih/Rimsha has not yet returned home. She, her family, and numerous other Christians from her neighborhood have sought refuge in an "undisclosed location."

Haaretz notes that Masih/Rimsha is "believed to be" less than 14 years old, and that a doctors' panel has declared that she suffers from learning disabilities, and has a low IQ for her age. 


Imam Arrested For Framing Illiterate Pakistani Girl For 'Blasphemy'

ChishtiYesterday I wrote about an illiterate young Pakistani girl imprisoned for allegedly burning pages of a Qur'an to begin a cooking fire, and thereby committing blasphemy -- in Pakistan, a crime punishable by life imprisonment. (Or, should "justice" be sought extrajudicially, being burned alive.) Late last night, BBC World reported that new evidence shows the girl didn't burn any pages of Qur'an at all. Rather, she was framed by a local Imam.

From the BBC:

Imam [Khalid] Chishti appeared in the Islamabad court with a white blindfold and shackled hands.

There was a large police presence as he was ushered into the building.

"The imam was arrested after his deputy Maulvi Zubair and two others told a magistrate he added pages from the Koran to the burnt pages brought to him by a witness," an investigator Munir Hussain Jaffri said.

Zubair and others reportedly told Imam Chishti not to tamper with the evidence, but Imam Chishti told them doing so was the only way to rid their neighborhood of Christians.

Imam Chishti was arrested yesterday. He is now facing blasphemy charges. The girl, whose name is Rimsha, presumably will not, though she hasn't yet been released from police custody. Perhaps that's for the best. Until the arrest of Imam Chishti, several of her Muslim neighbors were calling for Rimsha's death. It could be that Pakistani authorities will wish to allow the angrier elements of the Islamic public to digest the fact that it was one of their shamans, and not a prophet-denying Christian, who desecrated their holy book.

For the moment, Rimsha's family remains in protective custody.


(UPDATED) Disabled Pakistani Girl Imprisoned For Blasphemy: VIDEO

[UPDATE: Turns out that the girl in the following story was very likely framed by a local cleric. Read more here.]

Here is a link to a very disturbing CNN story. It starts bad --

A Pakistani court postponed a hearing Saturday on whether to grant bail to a Christian girl accused of burning pages containing Quran verses in a case that has heightened religious tensions.

Muslim lawyers demanded she remain in jail during a tense hearing that included a shouting match with the judge. They provided a list of reasons she should be detained, including questioning whether the girl gave her lawyer the power of attorney.

A judge ordered investigators to get more details on her power of attorney, and postponed the hearing to Monday. Before Saturday, a decision was supposed to come Thursday, but was deferred so authorities could answer questions about her medical history.

"All these are the delaying tactics by the lawyers of the complainant to keep the girl in jail," said her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Choudhry.

Quran-- and gets worse.

The girl, it turns out, is desperately poor -- from such a backwards neighborhood that authorities can't tell if she's eleven years old, sixteen years old, or some age in between. Nobody else seems to know, either. (I get the impression the author of the CNN article thinks she's fourteen.)

Also: The girl's not being accused of burning the Qur'an pages out of some kind of anti-Islamism. She was trying to start a cooking fire, as many in her corner of the world must, with scrap paper.

Also: The only evidence that she did actually burn pages from the Qur'an come from eyewitnesses. As of yet, no physical evidence has been presented.

Also: Even if the girl actually did burn pages from the Qur'an, she wouldn't know it. She's illiterate.

Also: The girl is mentally disabled, and may have Down's Syndrome.

From CNN:

The court faces a difficult decision amid concerns that if she is released on bail, she could be at risk from Muslims angered by the allegations against her.

Choudhry, a leading member of the Christian community, said the girl is too young to stay in prison and would be safer joining her relatives, who are in hiding.

"She was crying in the jail and missing her parents," he said.

Choudhry suspects the girl's trial could take up to two years. If convicted of blasphemy, the disabled, illiterate young girl could face life in prison.

For obvious reasons, CNN hasn't named the suspected blasphemer. AFTER THE JUMP, see CNN's Reza Sayah discussing the story from Islamabad.

Continue reading "(UPDATED) Disabled Pakistani Girl Imprisoned For Blasphemy: VIDEO" »


Fakhra Younis Commits Suicide

4142077372She couldn't make it. She'd been a teenage dancer, working the red light district in Karachi, Pakistan, when she met her husband. He was in his mid-30s, and his name was Bilal Khar: the rich and powerful son of a governor. The pair were married.

Things didn't go well. He beat her, she said, and she left him. Afterward, as Fakhra Younis slept on her mother's couch a few feet from her five-year-old son, Khar stole into the house and poured acid on her face and body.

He was acquitted of the crime; she could not escape her new face. Despite a move to Rome and more than three dozen reconstructive surgeries over the last decade, she was destroyed. She jumped to her death from a height of six stories on March 17th.

From Emirates News:

Tehmina Durrani, Ghulam Mustafa Khar's ex-wife and [Bilal Khar's] stepmother, became an advocate for Younus after the attack, drawing international attention to the case. She said that Younus' injuries were the worst she had ever seen on an acid attack victim.

"So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn't breathe,'' said Durrani, who wrote a book about her own allegedly abusive relationship with the elder Khar. "We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together.''

"Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed,'' Durrani wrote in a column in The News after Younus' suicide.

Younus' ex-husband grew up in starkly different circumstances, amid the wealth and power of the country's feudal elite, and counts Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as a cousin.

Bilal Khar once again denied carrying out the acid attack in a TV interview following her suicide, suggesting a different man with the same name committed the crime. He claimed Younus killed herself because she didn't have enough money, not because of her horrific injuries, and criticized the media for hounding him about the issue.

"You people should be a little considerate,'' said Khar. "I have three daughters and when they go to school people tease them.''


NEWS: George Michael Improves, Pakistan Rages, Black Friday Brawls, And The Russian Bird

Tatianafinger

Road Apparently, this Russian newswoman wasn't really giving Barack Obama the finger. She thought she was only broadcasting audio, and the intended audience of her bird-flip was somebody in the studio. She was fired anyway.

Road George Michael is improving, says his lover.

Road Joseph Epstein explains how gossip, trivia, and stupidity took over the news.

Road Also: Chord Overstreet can't keep his shirt on.

Road Botched NATO raid leaves 24 dead, may have cost Alliance its most important supply route, and further strains US/Pakistan relations:

Gen Jacobson said a combined force of Afghan and Nato troops were in the area when "a tactical situation developed on the ground", though he gave no more details.

He said close air support was called in, and "we're aware it's highly likely this caused casualties".

Military sources told the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Paktika province in Afghanistan that a US-Afghan special forces mission had been in the area, where they believed a Taliban training camp was operating.

They said the mission came under fire from a position within Pakistan, and they received permission from the headquarters of Nato's Isaf mission to fire back.

In a statement, Isaf commander Gen John R Allen said the incident "has my highest personal attention and my commitment to thoroughly investigate it to determine the facts".

"My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan Security Forces who may have been killed or injured."

Road Who are America's biggest religious lobbyists, and how much do they spend?

A Pew study released this week shows that the growing number of religious advocacy groups in Washington spent nearly $400 million last year to influence public policy.

The groups are ideologically diverse, but data collected by Pew shows that conservative groups tend to have the biggest budgets ...

WaffleIrons Road Nice profile of Zach Huston, the gay high school freshman whose savage beating at the hands of a classmate became a flashpoint in the world's struggle against bullying. (Though his mum said something on the second page that s might strike some readers as impolitic. Thoughts?)

Road Rick Perry to campaign with noted authoritarian and publicity hog Joe Arpaio, the Arizona lawman famous for preferring men in pink underwear.

Road Really, there should have been a Human Planet segment devoted to Black Friday.

Road Muppet fever rages around the world. Here's a musical retrospective.

Road What makes Glenn Beck fans laugh on Thanksgiving? Pilgrin jokes! See a whole mess of "Pilgrim Funnies" produced for Glenn Beck's subscription comedy show, BS of A, AFTER THE JUMP. (HT: Little Green Footballs.)

Continue reading "NEWS: George Michael Improves, Pakistan Rages, Black Friday Brawls, And The Russian Bird" »


Pakistan Conservatives Slam U.S. Embassy's Pride Event

Pakistan_Flag The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, last week hosted a gay pride party for its employees and the nation's LGBT community, a community that's typically shrouded in shadows.

And, not surprisingly, conservatives there are furious: the powerful and influential Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami released a statement calling the event "cultural terrorism."

"Such people [homosexuals] are the curse of society and social garbage," the group said. "They don't deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the US administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan.”

Thankfully, the U.S. government appears to be sticking to their gay-support, and released their own statement: “This gathering demonstrated continued US Embassy support for human rights, including LGBT rights, in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.”


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