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Rimsha case a 'turning point' says adviser

Bhatti says Muslim leaders united for justice

  • Alessandro Speciale
  • International
  • September 12, 2012
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The case of Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl accused under Pakistan's blasphemy law, could mark a turning point in Islamic thought and improve relations among religious communities, said a leading authority.

Paul Bhatti, adviser on minorities affairs to prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, said he felt “encouraged” by the fact that the majority of Pakistan's Muslim leaders “personally told me their intention was to act to stop abuses” of the country's blasphemy law. He was speaking at an interfaith meeting in Sarajevo.

Rimsha was accused by the imam of the Islamabad neighborhood she lived in, who was subsequently arrested on suspicion of trying to frame her by adding pages of the Qu’ran to a bag containing the pages she allegedly burned. She was released on bail on September 7 and flown to an undisclosed location.

Bhatti said during the interfaith meeting organized by the Sant'Egidio community that Pakistan's ulemas and imams are “determined to make sure that episodes [such as Rimsha's], that make innocent victims in Islam's name, won't take place again in the future.”

He added that it was “the first time in Pakistan's history” that similar concerns were aired.

The Christian politician, who is the brother of the late minister Shahbaz Bhatti, said he personally contacted prominent Muslim leaders in order to defuse tension and prevent clashes between Christians and Muslims.

“They immediately understood and stopped all messages calling for violence and retaliation against Christians,” he said.

Bhatti said he wanted to expose “the whole truth” on Rimsha's case to make sure that Pakistani society and people of good will “understand that this law can be abused for personal gain.”

Allegedly, Rimsha had been framed to clear her neighborhood of Christians and make room for a new madrasa - an Islamic theology center.

Azad Muhammad Abdul Khabir, Grand Imam of the Lahore Mosque, who was also at the Sant’Egidio meeting, said he hoped that the culprits in Rimsha's case would be brought to justice.

“We want a positive solution to this case,” he said. He added that abuses of the blasphemy law are “forbidden” and “all religious communities unanimously condemn all forms of abuse.”

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