Pakistan may have another opportunity to execute another blasphemer for insulting Islam. This time it is an 11-year-old Christian Pakistani girl Rifta Masih accused of burning Islamic texts. In the meantime, Christians have been persecuted in the area as a local mullah claimed a witness saw the girl burn pages from an Islamic text.
Rifta Masih was arrested after demonstrators called for her death. Christians living in the area have been ordered to leave their neighborhood. A Muslim leader told the Christians to remove all their belongings from their houses by the first of September. In the meantime, Muslims have refused to sell or give Christians food or water. The girls parents have fled in fear of their own safety.
There are different accounts on what was allegedly burned with some saying that pages for the Koran were burned while others claim it was a small pocket book of Qur’anic verses.
The accuser is Hammad Malik, 23, who is described as a “scoundrel” by the Christian community. He claimed he saw her carry out a bag of garbage and noticed the burned pages. A local mullah claimed that there was another witness. That was enough to send hundreds into the streets calling for the death of the little girl.
I have written extensively on the rise of blasphemy or hate speech prosecutions against religious critics in the West. The Obama Administration has been working with Pakistan and other Muslim nations to develop an international standard for blasphemy prosecutions. The West has steadily yielded to the demands of religious groups that free speech must be curtailed in the name of faith. At the same time, Western governmental and religious leaders have denounced agnostics and atheists as one of the greatest threats facing the West (here and here and here and here). President Obama and Hillary Clinton have been facilitating this trend by working with Muslim nations to develop an international standard allowing for the prosecution of those who insult religion. The Administration has drawn a dangerous line with Muslim countries in first supporting the concept of an international blasphemy standard. As I have mentioned before, the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with these countries on an international blasphemy standard is a threat to free speech around the world. After first supporting an international blasphemy standard, the Administration sought to get Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to adopt the Brandenburg standard as the basis for such prosecutions. This case also shows why the use of the Brandenburg standard is so dangerous in the hands of such officials who view free speech as the cause of imminent violence. Past cases show that even the suggestion of blasphemy is enough to trigger violent riots in some Muslim nations. Because any joke or image of the Prophet can trigger violence, the standard is immediately satisfied in countries like Egypt and Pakistan, which can then claim some legal legitimacy under the standard created with the United States.
Secretary of State Clinton continues to push for the implementation of the new international effort to criminalize certain forms of anti-religious speech as our Muslim allies expand their definition of blasphemy.