Muslim cleric arrested for framing Christian girl in Pakistan blasphemy case

The Guardian reports: The mullah at the centre of the furore surrounding a young Pakistani Christian girl facing a death sentence for blasphemy has been accused of deliberately framing her by planting burnt Islamic texts.

In an extraordinary development in the case, which has attracted international condemnation, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti arrived in court blindfolded and under tight security after being arrested late on Saturday night. The judge ruled he should be held in police custody for two weeks.

Police say two of his colleagues gave statements that he added pages from the Qu’ran to strengthen the case against Rimsha Masih, who has been in custody for two weeks after she was accused by Muslim neighbours in her Islamabad neighbourhood of burning the holy book.

The crime is particularly serious under the country’s much-criticised blasphemy laws and offenders can be sentenced to death.

Maulvi Zubair and two other assistants at a mosque near Rimsha’s house told police Chishti deliberately added pages from the Qu’ran to some charred refuse she was carrying.

Zubair is said to have objected at the time but Chishti insisted it was the only way to get rid of Christians in the area.

Rimsha’s lawyers maintain that she did not commit any crime. They say that not only is she only 13 years old, and should be tried as a juvenile, she also has Down’s syndrome and therefore “cannot commit such a crime”, according to her bail application.

Chishti has been outspoken about his dislike of the hundreds of Christian families who live in the area, even appearing on a popular national television show to complain that the noise made by Christian worshippers had disturbed Muslim residents.

This is the kind of story that Islamophobes inevitably jump on as representative of the “nature” of Islamic intolerance, yet I think what it actually shows is the reason why there needs to be a clear separation between religion and state because of the inherently corrupting influence of power.

Consider the states in which religious power and the operations of government are most deeply intertwined — Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan, and the Vatican. Each gives a bad name to the religion with which it is associated.

Whether power is usurped by religion, corporations, ethnic groups, a tyrannical majority, or any other faction, the mere fact of its being consolidated means that power is being accrued by some at the expense of others. The claim that the powerful can act in the interests of the powerless is invariably a lie.

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