CAIRO - The detention of a mentally disabled Christian girl on accusations of defaming Islam is sparking unprecedented public outcry in Pakistan, with Muslim scholars coming together to protest the arrest.
"We see the Rimsha as a test case for Pakistan's Muslims, Pakistan's minorities and for the government," Tahir Ashrafi, the chairman of All Pakistan Ulema Council, told The Guardian on Tuesday, August 28.
"We don't want to see injustice done with anyone. We will work to end this climate of fear."
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Rimsha was arrested last week over holding burnt pages which had Islamic text and Qur'anic verses on them.
Officials said the girl was taken to a police station in the capital Islamabad, where she has been detained since on blasphemy charges.
A conviction for blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.
The All Pakistan Ulema Council, an umbrella group of Muslim scholars, warned that the law of jungle was gripping Pakistan.
"The law of the jungle is taking over now and anybody can be accused of anything," Ashrafi said.
"If she has been falsely accused, her accuser should be arrested and punished."
A medical report on Tuesday said that the girl had a mental age below her true age.
"She appears uneducated and her mental age appears below her chronological age," the report said.
The report also gave the age of the Christian girl at 14.
The finding, which means the girl will be tried in the juvenile court system, could possibly defuse the case.
The Muslim scholars' support for the Christian girl has won plaudits from religious leaders across Pakistan.
"This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that the Muslim community and scholars have stood up for non-Muslims," said Sajid Ishaq, chairman of the Pakistan Interfaith League.
"We are together, demanding justice, demanding an unbiased investigation. And those abusing this law should be taken care of."
The case has prompted outcry from Western governments, the Vatican and rights groups, who have complained that blasphemy law are often abused to settle personal scores.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws came under the spotlight in 2010 after a Christian woman was sentenced to death in a case stemming from a village dispute.
In January 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard over his criticism of the blasphemy law.
In addition to Taseer death, Pakistan's Minister of Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of the government, was assassinated later on March 4, 2011.
According to Pakistan's blasphemy law, insulting any Prophet in Pakistan, a country where 95 percent of the population is Muslim, is a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment.
The law, commonly known as 295-C, was introduced in early 1980s by late President General Zia-ul-Haq.
Since then, some 700 cases of blasphemy have been registered, half of which are against Muslims.
But rights groups say the law is often exploited to settle personal scores.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net