A Pakistani 11-year-old may face the death penalty for blasphemy, the Guardian reported today, as Christian vs Muslim controversy rages over her alleged burning of sacred Islamic texts.
Young Rifta Masih, who is from a Christian family, was accused by her neighbors of burning religious texts and was arrested on Thursday at Mehrabadi village, on the outskirts of Islamabad.
Now, says the Guardian, over 900 Christians have been forced to leave the area in response to increasingly violent protests over her alleged blasphemy. A minority in the area, they often work menial jobs, and shopkeepers refuse to serve those left behind, the Guardian added.
Read more from GlobalPost: Pakistani mentally disabled 11-year-old arrested for blasphemy
There is apparently no credible witness to Masih's alleged infraction. Previous media reports that she has Down's Syndrome are false, however - she is apparently "odd" but mentally normal.
She'll likely be charged under Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws, as per popular opinion, says the Guardian. Infractions to these laws usually hold long sentences - and can even carry the death penalty.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari is currently looking into the incident to determine if the blasphemy law was misused.
The Los Angeles Times added that the blasphemy "law is often exploited as a means to settle scores against adversaries or persecute minorities -- particularly Christians and Ahmadis, members of a Muslim sect viewed by most Pakistanis as traitors to Islam because they revere another prophet in addition to Muhammad."
Pakistan watchers may recall the still-ongoing case of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of 5 convicted of blasphemy by a sharia court in Pakistan, who is currently on death row despite international outcry.