Pakistani Teen Accused of Blasphemy Escaped to Canada
A Pakistani teenager, who was “falsely accused” of blasphemy, has fled to Canada with her family, BBC reports. Peter Bhatti, who runs the International Christian Voice Canada, helped the teen and her family to escape from Pakistan.
14 year old Rimsha Masih was detained in a maximum security prison for several weeks in August 2012, after being accused of burning pages from the Quran. Although the charges were dropped later, she and her family were forced into hiding after receiving death threats.
The family made the secret journey to Canada just weeks ago, arriving at an undisclosed location in Toronto. Although the family’s exact location has not been made public, the teenager has now settled in Canada with her family.
Teenager who is said to have Down’s syndrome was accused of burning the pages of a Qu’ran by one of her neighbors, a local Muslim cleric. The case sparked an international outcry when she was arrested by the Islamabad police last August and had to spend 25 days in an adult prison before being freed on bail.
A Pakistani court showed evidence later that Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti had allegedly desecrated the pages of a Qu’ran himself and blamed little Rimsha for it.
Pakistan’s newspaper Dawn reported two other men, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, had urged Chishti (Imam) not to interfere with the papers but he told them it was the only way to expel the Christians from the area. Although he was also arrested after these revelations, he was subsequently released on bail.
Pakistan has been experiencing brutal examples of religious intolerance in the country for the past decade. People who voice against the blasphemy laws are often murdered or threatened with violence.
Last March more than 3,000 aggressive mobsters burnt down about 200 houses in Joseph Colony, mainly a Christian area, in city of Lahore Pakistan.
On June 3rd of this year, three Christian women were attacked and paraded around naked by a mob with the support of the ruling party, said a press release issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
Peter Bhatti told CBC’s Laura Lynch that the teenager and her family have been granted special permission by the federal government to live in Canada, and Masih is doing wonderful in her new home. He added, “She is studying in school, every day, she is going to school, she is learning, she is talking more.”
Asma Mahmood, Secretary General Progressive Muslims Institute Canada, told Huffington Post: “In the wake of such situation in Pakistan, we welcome Rimsha Masih and her family’s safe arrival in Canada and we thank Canadian Government and Minister Jason Kenny for facilitating their safe journey to Canada.”