Pakistani Girl With Down Syndrome Faces Death Over Blasphemy Accusations

The Christian girl is accused of burning a religious book in the heavily Muslim country.

Christian children pose for a portrait in Mehrabadi district, Islamabad. Residents have begun to return to a poor Christian district in Islamabad after fleeing because of blasphemy charges filed against a young Christian girl. (Photo: Saeed Shah/MCT via Getty Images)

Aug 31, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

A Christian girl in Pakistan was arrested and imprisoned after being accused of burning pages of a children’s religious textbook, called the Noorani Qaida. The alleged behavior, which would violate Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and could be punishable by death, incited potential mob violence from hundreds of religious hardliners in the heavily Muslim country.

Rimsha Masih and her mother were taken to jail on August 17, after enraged Muslim neighbors said they saw the girl burning the book, reported the Associated Press.

MORE: U.K. Gives Mom and Dad Life for Murdering ‘Westernized’ Daughter

The child is believed to have Down syndrome, which was confirmed by her neighbors, reported The New York Times. A recently conducted medical report confirmed that Masih has some level of mental impairment and indicated that she is 14 years old; her age was previously in contention, as it would determine whether she was tried as a juvenile or an adult.

The girl has spent two weeks confined to Islamabad’s Adiala Prison, notes the Telegraph, and will be there until at least Saturday due to a delayed bail hearing.

“My young daughter has Down syndrome,” said Rimsha’s father, Misrek Masih, “and we are now afraid for her life.”

According to the Associated Press, police said there was little evidence that pages from the book, originally thought to be the Quran, had been burned.

Nonetheless, hundreds of protestors gathered outside a police station in Islamabad, demanding prosecution. Police filed blasphemy charges against the girl to appease the angry mob and to keep her safe in jail, according to The Washington Post. As many as 600 Christians have left the area in fear, hoping to avoid retaliation for being part of this religious minority.

The British Pakistani Christian Association is pushing a petition for Masih to be released and for the Pakistani government to stop the persecution of minorities. The goal is to reach 100,000 signatures, and currently more than 4,300 people have signed.

What do you think should be done in the case of Rimsha Masih? Let us know in the comments.

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