It is somewhat futile to complain about people granting more attention to cause X than causes Y and Z. Our empathetic capabilities are limited and our feelings are not proportioned according to the consequences of events but a myriad of ethical, aesthetic, opportunistic and circumstantial factors. Typically, when a lot of people care about one issue the alternative is their ignoring all of them. Had people stopped being interested in Kony 2012, they would not have begun to campaign to end starvation; save the whales and preserve Dandy magazine but gone back to laughing at pictures of cats in hamster wheels.

Still, while so many are so outraged by the treatment of activists who kicked up a stink in someone else’s church it would be nice to have more realisation of the fact millions don’t have the freedom of peace in their own homes. The Guardian reports on how the reaction to the supposed blasphemy of an 11-year-old girl has endangered hundreds of Pakistani Christians…

An 11-year-old Christian Pakistani girl could face the death penalty under the country’s notorious blasphemy laws, after she was accused by her neighbours of deliberately burning sacred Islamic texts.

Rifta Masih was arrested on Thursday, after complaints against her prompted angry demonstrations. Asif Ali Zardari, the president, has ordered the interior ministry to investigate the case.

As communal tensions continued to rise, about 900 Christians living on the outskirts of Islamabad have been ordered to leave a neighbourhood where they have lived for almost two decades.

On Sunday, houses on the backstreets of Mehrabadi, an area 20 minutes’ drive from western embassies and government ministries, were locked with padlocks, their occupants having fled to already overcrowded Christian slums in and around the capital.

One of the senior members of the dominant Muslim community told the Christians to remove all their belongings from their houses by 1 September. “I don’t think anyone will dare go back after this,” said one Christian, Arif Masih. “The area is not safe for us now.”

Being a Christian in Pakistan is something like being the only Celtic fan at Ibrox on a baking August day in which the only liquid in the stadium is beer. It is, however, much scarier. Asia Bibi remains in jail – three years after she was attacked under suspicion of the “crime” of insulting Muhammad and almost two since she was sentenced to death for it.

To say the country’s religious Muslims are intolerant to difference is like saying that bubble boys are sensitive to infection. Last year another Christian schoolgirl was the focus of controversy for nothing more than a naive misspelling. Tasked with writing a poem to celebrate Muhammad, she added a gratuitous dot to the term “naat”, which refers to devotional poems, and thus turned it into “lanaat”, which means damnation. She was thrashed by her teacher and expelled from her school; her Mother was banished from the town and the family fled the region.

I suspect that Masih won’t be sentenced to death – as, if nothing else, it would make aid to Pakistan untenable – but the threat of vigilantism remains acute. Shahbaz Batti, the one Christian in the Pakistani cabinet, was gunned down merely for opposing the nation’s blasphemy laws. The fact that such grandees aren’t immune from vengeance, nor people as young as Masih safe from violent indignation, intimidates the nation’s other Christians into staying quiet and not posing the slightest challenge to the self-righteous supremacists.

About these ads