Lifestyle & Belief

11-year-old Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy kept in prison "for own safety"


Homeless Pakistani Christians protest for the protection of Christian minorities in Islamabad on April 27, 2009.


Farooq Naeem

11-year-old Rimsha Masih remains in Pakistani prison after being accused of burning paper containing Koranic verses, reported RT News, in a move prison officials claim is being made for her "own safety."

Police blocked a bail request, saying that her life and that of her family would be in risk if she were released.

They might be right: Rimsha and her family are Christians, and the young girl's burning of a holy book has enraged their Muslim neighbors, who, according to RT News, are calling for her to be "burned alive." 

Read more from GlobalPost: Christian girl arrested for blasphemy in Pakistan cannot read: Vatican

Many Christians fled the Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad after the girl's alleged infraction became known, fearing violence. 

It's been widely reported that Rimsha suffers from Down's Syndrome, but this has yet to be verified: Huffington Post UK reports doctors will release a report on her condition and will verify her age on Tuesday. 

AFP reported that the cleric who originally turned her over to police, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, is accusing Rimsha of "conspiracy," and that she "confessed what she did." 

Read more from GlobalPost: 11-year-old Pakistani girl could face death penalty under Pakistani law for blasphemy

Chishti claimed his Christian neighbors had "previously caused antagonism by playing music in services at their makeshift church during Muslim prayer time."

In what may be an incident related to the ongoing religious hysteria, the mutilated body of an 11-year-old Christian boy was found in Pakistan's Punjab region last Friday, reported RT News. 

A French cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran, went on Vatican Radio last Saturday to defend the girl, claiming that she cannot read.