Muslim Cleric Planted Evidence on Christian Girl Accused of Blasphemy

It was bad enough when we learned that an 11-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, Rimsha Masih, was arrested for blasphemy for alleged Koran desecration in Pakistan.

Now, we’ve learned that Muslim cleric Khalid Chishti may have planted the evidence on her:

Khalid Chishti is taken to court (Faisal Mahmood – Reuters)

The cleric, Khalid Chishti, was arrested late Saturday for allegedly planting pages of a Qur’an in a shopping bag containing burned papers and ash that had been carried by the Christian girl, said Munir Jaffery, an investigating officer in the case.

Why would he do something like that?

Maulvi Zubair and two other assistants at a mosque near Rimsha’s house told police Chishti deliberately added pages from the Qu’ran to some charred refuse she was carrying.

Zubair is said to have objected at the time but Chishti insisted it was the only way to get rid of Christians in the area.

Some of the blame also rests on Pakistan’s disturbing blasphemy laws, which allow these sorts of fiascos to occur:

The blasphemy laws have been widely abused as a powerful way to settle scores and disputes. People have been sentenced to long jail terms on extremely weak evidence, some of which cannot even be properly examined in court for fear of repeating any blasphemy.

But public criticism of the laws is itself dangerous — two prominent politicians have been assassinated by religious hardliners after speaking out.

The law needs to be repealed. It won’t anytime soon, of course, but those of us outside the country can speak out against it as much as possible.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    Piece of shit.

  • Christoph Burschka

    The man needs to be put away, but charging him under the same blasphemy law doesn’t help. The law itself is fundamentally evil. This legitimizes the law and the very charges originally brought against Rimsha. Those charges weren’t just wrong because she didn’t actually do it; they were wrong because the law is wrong.

  • Topher Kersting

    Oh, I don’t know about throwing out the blasphemy laws so quickly. We should at least wait until they find out where he obtained the pages he planted…

  • EivindKjorstad

    It’s a detail. But can we please stop talking about “christian girl” as relating to 11-year-olds ? There’s no such thing as a “christian child”, only children of christian parents. We can debate at what age a child can reasonably be said to have a religion, but 11 year olds certainly do not, even in the average case, and in this case they’re talking about a girl with Downs Syndrome.

  • Ateista Sveta

    I bet they will charge him for burning those pages himself and not for what he did to that little girl…

  • Glasofruix

    He was lying for his pedophilic prophet, that must be a OK…

  • TCC

    I feel like I’ve heard this story before…oh yeah.

  • Michael

    What people miss is that the people protesting to keep these laws aren’t seeking to keep protection from blasphemy, but rather to keep the ability to do this to people they don’t like.

  • sailor

    The UN should come out against blasphemy laws. It is ridiculous that someone could be put to death or imprisoned for dissing someone else s fantasies.

  • Bdesign7

    She’s 11 now? Almost every report I’ve seen says 13, some say 15 or 16.

  • LesterBallard

    Yeah, except it doesn’t happen that much in the US these days.

  • C Peterson

    Seems to me like laws against blasphemy are terribly insulting to one’s god. After all, the only one insulted is that god, and temporal laws punishing this are really just saying that you don’t think your god can deal with a few negative words on its own (mature god: ignore, immature god: smite or damn).

    Of course, blasphemy laws have nothing at all to do with punishing disrespect for a god, and everything to do with religious leaders controlling other people.

  • RebeccaSparks

    At the same time, I would be disappointed if the law was upheld when it was against a Christian but suddenly found inappropriate against a Muslim.

  • Amakudari

    In Pakistan, these laws are mostly used against Muslims, particularly those of minority denominations such as Shias and Ahmadis. I guess the question is how well it holds up against a Sunni.

    Nonetheless, it will be quite sad (and unsurprising) if this case is about little more than whether the pages were handled in a blasphemous way, not whether he tried to frame a mentally handicapped child so that she’d be sentenced to death or decades of imprisonment.

  • Nazani14

    I’m sure lots of people already assumed that she was set up.    I have to wonder if Chishti wanted her out of the way to cover up another crime, like molestation.

  • Fematheunicorn

    So, do these people count as extremists or run of the mill Muslims?

  • HomerThompson

    Who cares in this context? She could been a 100 year old scholar! What diff does it make?

  • kenneth

    It’s a little difficult for the West to get all huffy about the issue. Ireland has a shiny new blasphemy law on its books. 

  • AntonioPeYangIII
  • Blacksheep

    It’s an important thing to call out in this story because it establishes motive, whether or not the 11 year old girl was herself consciously a Christian or not:
    “Zubair is said to have objected at the time but Chishti insisted it was the only way to get rid of Christians in the area.”

  • Matt E

    Blasphemy – the ultimate victimless crime. Unless, of course, you count the people charged with it…

  • C Peterson

    People are often identified by the religious community they are part of, especially in places where there is a lot of cultural religious tension. In that sense, calling her a Christian girl is accurate, even if she herself has little idea what that really means.

  • cipher

    I suppose the “thinking” is that if they can be married at eleven, they can commit blasphemy.

  • Marco

    Has anyone noticed the logo for the police force arresting the cleric? Looks like two guns and a erect pointed penis (A sword in reality, but it does look a bit suggestive, especially the color).

    I am really happy they caught this guy and frankly I don’t care if he is also charged under their blasphemy laws. They should be repealed, but we all know they won’t be. Might as well use them to send this guy to a really long sentence. 

  • Annie

    Does anyone know why Khalid Chishti is blindfolded?  Is it for punishment or protection?

  • Salwinder

    I think we should bear in mind that he hasn’t been convicted yet – just charged. Given Pakistan’s abysmal record for wrongful arrests and convictions, it is conceivable that this guy may just be innocent. It may be a political arrest intended to defuse some of the tensions in the arsa. Shall we wait to hear the evidence instead of automatically assuming his guilt because the story fits the set of assumptions people have about this case? I’m a little disappointed that Hemant has somewhat presumed this man’s guilt ahead of any trial……

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I repeat my position on blasphemy laws: I do not oppose them.

    However – I would not allow third party filings. Any deity who thinks He, She, It, They have been blasphemed can show up in court and file charges themselves.

  • Randomfactor

     I think that regardless of what crime he faces, the PUNISHMENT should be the same as that he tried to frame the girl to face if he is convicted.

  • Coyotenose

     The ONLY assumption people had about this case was that a teenager with Downs Syndrome can’t commit blasphemy in the first place, thanks.

    What the story actually fits is every single thing we know about the issue, including the  new defendant’s public speech and actions.

  • Salwinder

    If that’s your threshold for assuming someone’s guilt then that is rather concerning. Hemant falls into the same trap, asking “why would he do something like that?” despite no evidence yet being presented in a court of law. The first commenter then states “Piece of shit” in reference to the accused, followed by the second commenter who says “The man needs to be put away.” So yes actually, there are erroneous assumptions being made here.

  • Nazani14

    Not the first time religious persecution has been used to free up desirable real estate.

  • The Other Weirdo

     In the largely secular West, that is true. In the freaky parts of the world, it isn’t.

  • EivindKjorstad

     No, it’s true everywhere. Sure, religious folks who haven’t given the matter much thought (or who have, and have found that dishonesty serves their purposes well) will routinely talk as if the children themselves are religious, but we atheists don’t need to go along with that nonsense.

    It makes no sense to refer to a child as “christian” before the child has reached an age where it’s even able to make its own atleast nominally independent choice, like I said, the precise cut-off-point we can debate, but 11 year old children with Downs Syndrome clearly aren’t “christian”.

    I agree it’s important for motive in this case. But that point would’ve been made just as well if we’d refered to her as what she is: a child of christian parents.

  • Gus Snarp

    I think he should be charged with burning the pages himself, after all, it probably carries a higher penalty than planting the evidence. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to hear a Muslim cleric defend ripping pages out of a Koran. That’s exactly the kind of case needed to get the stupid law repealed. Well, it would be in the States, anyway. I somehow think nothing that happens in the Pakistani courts would actually put this stupid law in the jeopardy it ought to be in.

  • Michael

    Since it’s a capital offence I’d call it attempted murder.