ASIA/PAKISTAN - Muslim leaders: "Rimsha must be released, the sharia says it"

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer is a Salafi Muslim leader. He is the current Secretary General of the "Jamiat Ahle Hadith" ("Assembly of the followers of the sayings of the Prophet"), the political-religious party, part of the Islamic fundamentalist network "Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal", present in Parliament. He is the director of the monthly magazine "Al-Ikhwah", published in Urdu. In past years it was at the forefront in all the demontrations of fundamentalists to define the blasphemy law "untouchable". According to information sent to Fides, Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer spoke in favor of Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl accused of blasphemy: "If she is found to be a minor, she has to be released, and if the allegations are false, the guilty must be punished. No one has the right to take justice into their own hands. The blasphemy law needs procedural amendments to prevent abuse." After the words of Mullah Tahir Ashrafi, leader of the '"All Pakistan Ulema Council", who defended Rimsha in recent days, calls for "an impartial investigation and protection for the Christian community", Pakistan Muslim leaders and intellectual scholars who have spoken out in favor of Rimsha grows. Fides has gathered the opinions of leaders of various Islamic organizations and institutions. According to Muhammad Hussain Akbar, head of "Idara Minhaj-ul-Hussain", "the girl, a minor, is not to blame and should be released immediately." Pir Shafaat Rasool, Administrator of the madrasa "Bilal Markaz" in Lahore, points out that according to the sharia the girl is blameless: "Islam protects all non-Muslims. In order to prove the charges against a minor Islam prescribes a different procedure than that required for a mature person. Instead of inflicting punishment, Islam should teach and guide a child with love and sympathy, if he/she commits an error. Therefore, in my opinion, Rimsha must be released immediately." Allama Mushtaq Hussain Jafri agrees, President of the organization "Tahafuz-e-Pakistan Jafria": "Islam respects and protects the rights of all and provides for different procedures when it has to do with children. Moreover, one cannot attribute to another a phrase until the charge is not proven. " Allama Javed Akbar Saqi, head of "Wahdat-e-Islami" and Secretary General of the "Interreligious Peace Committee" of Punjab said: "The girl is a minor and mentally disabled. An impartial investigation is necessary. The story seems stale and contrived. In the past incidents such as these proved to be false and without foundation." Also according to Hafiz Muhammad Mudassar, leader of "Khateeb Jamia Masjid Anwaar-e-Madina", "the girl is not an adult and mentally ill. It is not appropriate to allocate these allegations to her. She must be released immediately." Liaqat Baloch, Secretary General of "Jamat-e-Islami", announced his commitment: "We are trying to find a solution to resolve the situation. One should bear in mind that the girl is a minor and has mental problems. It seems to me that there is too much lawlessness in Pakistan and that no one is safe." According to some scholars interviewed by Fides, the choice of the Sunni Muslim leaders in favor of Rimsha has two sides: religious (according to the Islamic law) and also political. After a recent massacre of Shiite Muslims by the Taliban in Pakistan, in fact, the rift between Sunni Muslims (the majority) and Shiites (25%) has deepened, which in the past were united on issues related to Islam. The Shiites, considered by the Taliban "non-Muslims", are defined as "minority" and have broken the alliance with the leader of Sunni organizations. They now plan to work towards reunification, seeking a common position on a case of great media coverage such as the case on Rimsha. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/08/2012)