US Senators Blast Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators wrote to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday, blasting the country's blasphemy law following the arrest of an 11 year-old young Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome for allegedly burning pages of the Koran.
Rimsha Masih has been in police custody since being arrested in a suburb of Islamabad two and a half weeks ago, accused of burning papers containing verses from the Quran, in breach of strict blasphemy laws. She could face life in prison or even the death penalty under Pakistani law.
The senators wrote that the law's application to religious minorities violates their rights and called on Zardari's government to ensure their safety and release Masih immediately, The Hill reported.
“While we do not condone the destruction of any religious document or artifact or the defamation of any religion,” the letter states, “the application of Pakistan's blasphemy law undermines the State's obligation to protect the rights of all religious groups in Pakistan and in fact has repeatedly been used to harass and intimidate members of minority religious groups.”
The letter also denounced the forced departure of Christians in the girl's neighborhood and recent violence against Hindus and Ahmadis, an Islamic sect seen as heretical by many Muslims, according to The Hill.
The letter was signed by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).