Pakistani Teenager Falsely Accused of Blasphemy is Safe, but Two Others Are Killed for Dancing in the Rain

Last summer, Rimsha Masih, a young teenager who is the daughter of a Pakistani Christian couple, was arrested and jailed on charges of blasphemy. Her accuser was a mullah, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti (a.k.a. Khalid Jadoon) who said he’d caught the girl with charred pages from the Koran.

Something was fishy about the case from the get-go. For one thing, Rimsha (pictured below, left) was widely reported to be of limited mental capacity (some sources say she has Down Syndrome); even if she had really done what Chishti (right) accused her of, her culpability was in question. Also, Chishti is a known agitator against Christians,

… even appearing on a popular national television show to complain that the noise made by Christian worshippers had disturbed Muslim residents.

Which is an observation lacking in the self-awareness department if you’ve ever heard the racket a muezzin blares from atop his minaret five times a day.

Anyway: Chishti, despite eventually being arrested himself for making false statements to the police, had reason to boast of his success:

He… welcomed the departure of most of the Christians from the area following the furore surrounding the arrest of Rimsha. With passions running high in the community — hundreds of people demonstrated outside her house, reportedly demanding the right to burn the young girl to death — most Christians fled the area.

Even after a court cleared Rimsha of the potentially fatal charges — blasphemy can carry the death penalty in Pakistan — she and her family still weren’t allowed to live in peace. Chishti’s lawyer declared that as far as he was concerned, Muslims should “take the law into their own hands.” Rimsha and her relatives endured everything from dirty looks and hateful comments to outright death threats.

Now, it turns out, she and her family are finally safe; Canada quietly provided them with visas and a chance at a better life. Canada’s immigration minister Jason Kenney and everyone else who made it happen deserve our collective thanks.

Kenney said he had been following the case and was prompted to act when a Pakistani contact asked him in January whether the family could come to Canada. “I said absolutely, if they could get her out,” Kenney told the Canadian Press on Sunday. “So a number of people did some very dangerous, delicate work to extricate her and her family from Pakistan, and we provided the necessary visas”… Kenney said he had instructed immigration officials to process the family’s applications for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

That not all Muslim girls manage to escape oppression is sadly evident from another bit of news from Pakistan:

Two teenage sisters have been shot dead in Pakistan for allegedly dancing in the rain. Sisters Noor Basra, 15, Noor Sheza, 16, and their mother, Noshehra, were shot dead by five gunmen after a video of the two girls enjoying the rain shower in traditional dress spread throughout their conservative northern town.

The sisters’ stepbrother is now being blamed for ordering their deaths on June 23 in an effort to restore the family’s “honor” six months after the video surfaced.

Some reports cast doubt on the motive:

[Police] say they are also examining whether a property dispute or an audio clip — in which the girls are apparently heard talking to an unknown man — might be responsible.

No matter how you slice it, the girls are still victims of Islam’s appalling patriarchy.

The New York Daily News notes that

This latest tragedy comes one year after four women were executed for singing and dancing with men at a wedding in a remote village of Kohistan in northwest Pakistan. Tribal elders ordered the women to be shot dead for allegedly tarnishing their families’ names by their acts of “fornication.”


About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.


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