Tag Archives: Down’s Syndrome

Free Rimsha Masih

The latest victim of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, is an 11 year old girl suffering from Downs Syndrome. Rimshah Masih screamed pitifully as she was brutally snatched from her mother by an angry mob intent on killing her. Burnt religious texts had been mischievously planted in a bag she was carrying. We call on the Pakistani Government to take action to stop the ongoing discrimination, persecution and hatred towards minorities living there. We call on the Britisha Government the EU and the Un to intervene on behalf of this poor child and to bring about her freedom.

To bring an end to hatred towards minority faiths in conservative Pakistan and to defend otherwise helpless victims like Rimsha please sign the petition below:

This petition will be sent to the Pakistan High Commission and 10 Downing Street.

Here our song for Rimsha here:

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» To Sign a Petition to Free Rimsha Masih

Venom spread into the whole of society: the arrest of a young Pakistani Christian girl on blasphemy charges

Pakistani activists alarmed by threats to minorities

The US has said that it is deeply disturbed by the arrest of a young Pakistani Christian girl on blasphemy charges. It also expressed satisfaction, however, about President Asif Ali Zardari’s action to probe the case.

On Monday, when Pakistani Muslims were busy celebrating the Islamic Eid festival, hundreds of Christian families living in the low-income Mehrabad neighborhood of the Pakistani capital Islamabad were forced to leave the homes where they had been living for more than two decades.

The Christians feared that they would be attacked by the majority Muslim community after Rimsha, a Christian girl aged between 10 and 13, allegedly burnt pages with the verses from the Koran inscribed on them. The incident took place last Thursday and Rimsha was later taken into custody by the Pakistani police.

The angry Muslims of the neighborhood, which is only a 20-minute drive from Western embassies in Islamabad, immediately demanded that she be punished for her “sin.”

According to some media reports, the girl was burning papers that she collected from a rubbish pile for cooking when some Muslims entered her house and accused her of burning the Islamic text. Pakistani officials have claimed the girl suffers from Down’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder causing major learning disabilities.

On Monday, the US State Department took serious note of the girl’s arrest. “This case is obviously deeply disturbing,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, adding that the US government was encouraged by President Zardari’s move to order the interior ministry to submit a report on the case.

“We think that the president’s statement is very welcome, and we urge the government of Pakistan to protect not just its religious minority citizens but also women and girls,” Nuland said.

Religious discrimination is widespread

Religious discrimination in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not a new occurrence but it has increased considerably in recent years. Pakistan’s liberal sections are alarmed by the growing influence of right-wing Islamists in their country.

Rights activists complain that the Islamists enjoy state patronage, while on the other hand liberal and progressive voices have to face the wrath of the country’s security agencies.

Rights organizations also point out to the legal discrimination against minorities in Pakistan, which, in their opinion, is one the major causes of maltreatment of Pakistani minority groups.

President Zardari’s PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) government has recently come under sharp criticism from the country’s rights organizations and the West for refusing to reform the anti-blasphemy laws despite the assassinations of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian cabinet minister, and Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab province.

Controversial anti-blasphemy laws

The two politicians were brutally murdered by Islamists in 2011 because they had dared to speak out against the controversial laws, which were introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Many rights activists say they have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes.

Farooq Sulehria, a London-based activist and journalist, told DW that they should be immediately repealed. “But I doubt that in the absence of a working-class struggle in Pakistan, any government will be forced to do it.”

Mohsin Sayeed, a journalist in Karachi, said the laws were “un-Islamic.”

“The anti-blasphemy laws should be abolished because they have nothing to do with Islam. We have been demanding their repeal for a long time. This demand has met with a fierce reaction from religious extremists, who are no more a marginalized group in Pakistan,” Sayeed told DW.

He also criticized the Pakistani judiciary for its alleged sympathetic behavior toward the right-wing. “Asia Bibi is still languishing in jail, while Mumtaz Qadri (Taseer’s assassin), is still alive,” he said.

‘Intolerance is becoming mainstream’

There have also been reports of hundreds of members of the Hindu community trading Pakistan for India, citing mistreatment, discrimination and persecution in their homeland as reasons.

Continue reading Venom spread into the whole of society: the arrest of a young Pakistani Christian girl on blasphemy charges

Washington Post: Pakistani Christians flee in fear after Christian girl with Downs Syndrome is jailed of blasphemy

Pakistani Christians, fearing backlash, flee community after girl is accused of blasphemy

By: Richard Leiby

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Everyone in the teeming, tense community of Muslims and Christians just outside Islamabad seems to have a different story about the young girl and the Koran.

The 12-year-old Christian deliberately burned the Muslim holy book, some say. No, she innocently put pages from a non-sacred teaching text into the trash, say others, and nothing was burned. Still another version holds that an older Muslim boy planted pages of the Koran for the cleaning girl to find and then leveled the accusation of desecration because she had spurned him.

Amid the conflicting claims, this much is certain: As many as 600 Christians have fled their colony bordering the capital, fearing for their lives, officials said, after a mob last week called for the child to be burned to death as a blasphemer.

The girl, who authorities have described as mentally challenged, sits in jail in Rawalpindi, charged by police with blasphemy, while her family has been put in federal protective custody. The evidence against her is muddled at best, but police said they arrested her in part to assuage the mob and also because they knew she would be safer in jail.

“The one who burned the Koran should be burned,” said Shaukhat Ali, an assistant at the local mosque, expressing a sentiment shared by many Muslims in the community.

Continue reading Washington Post: Pakistani Christians flee in fear after Christian girl with Downs Syndrome is jailed of blasphemy

New blasphemy low – downs syndrome girl arrested!

We have received reports of a new and appalling low in the ongoing abuse of blasphemy laws. Allegedly, a Quran was found with some of its pages burned by Muslims in a Christian area of Islamabad – in previous cases the burning has nearly always shown to have been done by Muslims, or by mentally unstable people – and worse, they have had an 11 year old Christian girl with downs syndrome called Rimsha Masih arrested and charged with the crime.

Continue reading New blasphemy low – downs syndrome girl arrested!

Pakistan : A new social contract

Dr. Manzur Ejaz
Dr. Manzur Ejaz

A new social contract – by Dr Manzur Ejaz

– Wichaar

The battle for an independent judiciary was the latest in this regard where emerging forces prevailed over the old ones. Many such battles are going to be fought to bring into force a new social contract

I knew a retired US general who was a decorated Vietnam War veteran. His wife had a long-term illness and his one unmarried daughter, living with him, had Down’s Syndrome. The general single-handedly took care of his sick wife and daughter. Whenever I visited him, he cooked a delicious meal for us. He died several years ago, leaving me with an agonising unanswered question: why did the general never use his connection with the army to obtain personal benefits like getting household help, which he genuinely needed?

My inquiries show that except for a very few who become politicians or go into business, my general friend represented the majority of retired US generals, some of whom had played extremely important roles in conflicts and/or policy making. While in service, they never thought of using that power to tinker with the domestic political, legal or social system.

However, in military intervention-prone countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, the armed forces really believe that power flows from the barrel of the gun. Officers in such countries believe that they deserve all the privileges and that they are above law. Although they do not command militaries as powerful as those of the United States, they gain more power and comforts than American or European military officials.

What is the basis for this behavioural difference?

To put it simply, officers in the Third World grow up in societies where everyone, capable of oppressing others is doing so. The ruling classes, whether feudal lords, industrialists or bureaucrats, suppress the common people. Even a petty Chaudhry or Numbardar of a village acts like a Pharaoh in his own little sphere. The lowest of the lowest in the class hierarchy does the same thing within his family. Therefore power is constantly wielded at every level of society.

American and European societies were much like the developing world for a long time. However, attitudes changed with commercialisation and industrialisation. The industrial north of the US was against slavery while the agrarian south wanted to hold on to it. The division is still there because the economic base has not changed.

What changes when the economic base changes?

Basically, every society, agrarian or industrial, has an unwritten social contract, which becomes the basis of the individual’s position, human rights in society and the legal system. In an agrarian society, social relations are based on layers of a power structure where the individual has no identity or rights. No one represents himself or herself: everyone is part of a family, tribe or community. Using power to better your narrow family, cast or group is considered legitimate behaviour. In this backdrop, the economically powerful, the bureaucrats and the military become coercive groups where common citizens have no effective rights.

In Europe and America, as society changes through commercialisation and industrialisation, the old social contract starts losing its effective force. The new social contract does not emerge for a long time and society remains in flux and transition. This was the situation in the 19th century, when it was said that the old social contract had lost its force. Since the new contract had not emerged, ethnic, nationalist, regionalist and religious ideologies filled the gap. Pakistan and many developing countries are passing through this stage right now, for which there is no quick fix.

Institutions in transitioning countries are in disarray and competing with each other to maintain their traditional position. The recent conflict between the military establishment and civilian political forces over the Kerry-Lugar Bill is just a continuation of the intense struggle that had started towards the end of 1970s and had resulted in the removal of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government in 1977 and the second Nawaz Sharif government in 1999.

Similarly, the religious side is trying to hold on to its privileged position in the midst of emerging secular institutions. One can trace a conflict between the old and the emerging institutions in every aspect of society.

Additionally, as the social contract based on commercialisation or industrialisation takes shape, how we define individuals or human rights is also changing. Unlike the feudal era, the new society guarantees certain basic rights to every individual the way we see it in the industrial societies of the US, Europe or even Japan. Pakistani society has been struggling since the 70s to reach that stage. Naturally the status quo forces have been fiercely resisting these changes.

The battle for an independent judiciary was the latest in this regard where emerging forces prevailed over the old ones. Many such battles are going to be fought to bring into force a new social contract. The process is going to be slow and difficult because the economic base is not changing very fast. Nevertheless, the emergence of a new social contract is inevitable, where it will be taboo for generals to intervene in the political process and gain unlimited power.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

October 20th, 2009

http://www.wichaar.com/news/294/ARTICLE/16826/2009-10-20.html