A number of Muslim leaders in Pakistan have called for the release of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl with learning difficulties, accused of blasphemy.
Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, a Salafi Muslim leader, magazine editor and head of an Islamic fundamentalist political party which has representation in parliament, said: "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."
Mullah Tahir Ashrafi, leader of the 'All Pakistan Ulema Council", has also defended Rimsha and called for "an impartial investigation and protection for the Christian community".
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 President of the organization 'Tahafuz-e-Pakistan Jafria" agrees, saying: "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', said: "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, Sunni Muslim leaders have begun supporting Rimsha for two reasons: religious, and 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.