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.