Disabled Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy
His Grace has been criticised, rebuked and scorned for having commented upon the crime and punishment of Pussy Riot while remaining silent on the plight of an 11-year-old Down's girl in Pakistan. Apparently, she has burned some pages of the Qur'an, and stands accused of insulting Mohammed. In accordance with Pakistan's laws on blasphemy, she faces the death penalty.
But, this being Pakistan, there's not a lot of time to organise lawyers and arrange some time in a courtroom before a judge. No, the mob is already baying for blood, and the little girl's house in Islamabad is surrounded night and day by hordes of zealots eager to do the will of Allah.
The reason His Grace hasn't yet commented on this (apart from the fact that he is not a rolling news service and his time is constrained) is because the facts are somewhat in contention: some accounts say the girl, identified as Rimsha Masih, is a juvenile - perhaps 11 or 12; some insist that she is 16. Some say she has a mental disability (Down's) and was unable to respond to police questioning; others that she is of normal intelligence and so culpable. Some Muslims from the area claim the girl had burned pages of the Qur'an in defiance of the Islamic religion (she is Christian); others that she was simply burning paper for fuel, which is not uncommon in the area.
Frankly, His Grace cares not whether the girl is 11 or 16, with Downs or not: she is accused of blasphemy because she allegedly burned pieces of paper which are not sacred to her. What on earth happened to there being 'no compulsion in Islam'?
President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered his Interior Minister to launch an investigation into this case because of the attention it is attracting. He'd better get a move on, for the natives are clearly restless, and Allah must be avenged. It isn't unknown for the mob to take the law into their own hands and summarily execute people who are accused of violating the blasphemy laws. Liberal politician Salman Taseer was shot and killed by one of his own guards in January 2011, and in March 2011, armed men assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian minister in Pakistan's cabinet.
Perhaps if the Foreign Secretary were to move towards a more ethical foreign policy... for why should British Overseas Aid be contingent on international gay rights but not on averting the persecution of religious minorities? Is the life of a homosexual man in sexually-repressive Uganda worth more to HM Government than that of a Christian girl in religiously-extremist Pakistan?
Surely President Zardari might be a little more inclined to ensure justice for the girl if it were tied to (say) £650million?