Muslim Cleric Burns Qur'an, Frames Girl


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:38 AM EDT, 5 September 2012

Girl with Green Shawl, Peshawar, Pakistan, 2002, Photo by Dr. RizISLAMABAD, Pakistan - On 2 September 2012, Pakistani police officials have conceded that the young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, who was arrested and being detained under the blasphemy law, was wrongly accused.

Police have determined that she was framed by a local Muslim cleric, Khalid Jadoon, who was among the first to accuse her of burning the Qur'an, a crime that is punishable by death under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law.

This section of the law states that, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Masih is not the first female to fall victim to a law which some believe is designed less to protect the sanctity of the Qur'an, and more about disenfranchising Christians, Hindus, Ahmadies, and Shias, silencing dissident Muslims, and in some cases used as a tool by larcenous individuals to appropriate the property of others.

In July 2010 two Christian brothers who were accused of writing a blasphemous letter against the Prophet Mohammad were gunned down outside a court in the eastern city of Faisalabad. Then in November of that same year, a Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death under this law and remains on death row.

According to the Associated Press “a local man, Hafiz Zubair, came forward to offer testimony in which he claims to have seen Jadoon fabricating evidence by mixing holy text pages with ashes. Speaking to a local news channel, Zubair said: ‘I asked Jadoon why he was fabricating the evidence. He said that this would ensure a strong case against the girl and would ultimately help them in evicting the Christians from the locality.’"

Despite Jadoon’s arrest and vociferous national and international pressure to secure her freedom, Masih remains incarcerated. Attempts to overturn the blasphemy law have met with violent opposition including the assassination of two high profile Pakistani politicians; former Governor Punjabi Salman Taseer and Federal Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti both of whom opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi.

Since 2009 Christian churches and houses across Pakistan have been targeted and burned by Muslim neighbors who had been incited to violence by false accusations of the desecration of the Qur'an. During at least one of these rampages reportedly seven Christians were burned alive. Christians, who make up four percent of Pakistan's population of 180 million, have faced increased persecution under the blasphemy law.

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Al Khalifa's Vendetta Against Bahraini Medics


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:14 PM EDT, 21 March 2012

A Wounded Shiite Bahraini DemonstratorBAHRAIN – On Tuesday, 20 March 2012, the Bahraini attorney general concluded his summation in the government’s case against the medics who defied an injunction against treating wounded Arab Spring protesters last year.

Although, the prosecutor initially suggested that the charges against the 20 medics would be drop, they changed course last week with an announcement that the government decided to pursue charges against 5 of the healthcare workers. The remaining 15 cases would be transferred from a military to an as yet unspecified professional tribunal.

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister, directed the public prosecutor to release a statement clarifying the government’s intent to prosecute the defendants for violating an injunction against treating wounded protesters. The majority of the wounded were Shi'a, which leads some observers to believe that these trials may be motivated by sectarian agendas.

The predominantly Sunni government did not provide an explanation for the choice to pursue the indictments and trials against the medical workers, despite initial claims that they would bring no charges against the doctors. It is also unclear what methodology drove the decision to try five medics while referring the remaining cases to a tribunal.

The Bahraini government’s decision to prosecute these doctors drew international condemnation, and human rights groups were vociferous in their assertion that the medical workers were being punished simply because they helped civilians during the bloody crackdown by state security forces during the anti-government demonstrations.

Last September, the military court sentenced each of the doctors to 15-year jail terms for the crimes of sedition, incitement to overthrow the government, stockpiling weapons, and taking hostages. These charges arose out of an incident when 20 doctors and other medical staff refused to stop treating the injured protesters and subsequently barricaded themselves in Salmaniya hospital.

After the militia agreed to let them leave, the medics disbanded peacefully and were of the understanding that the matter was concluded. However, they were subsequently charged and their cases referred to a military court. In the face of worldwide criticism, their cases were moved to a civil court  where the charges were dismissed. The presiding judge in the current case provided no explanation for why the initial charges were never dropped, nor why the defendants had not been informed of their continued indictments.

Bahrain is a pivotal ally to the United States, hosting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, providing an observation point for America in the Middle East, and aiding its efforts to monitor Iran and its nuclear program. Michael Posner, the US assistant secretary of state, said last month that Bahrain should seek "alternatives to criminal prosecution" in the case.