Rifta Masih is an 11-year-old Christian girl who lives near Islamabad, Pakistan. She reportedly suffers from Down’s Syndrome. Like many of the other Christians in her area — who comprise about 10% of the local population — the members of her family work menial jobs, and live in tiny properties rented from Muslim landlords.
On Thursday evening, Rifta was seen leaving the one-room dwelling she lives in with her sister and parents, carrying an earthenware dish filled with ash. Or, it may have been some refuse in a small shopping bag. Although Hammad Malik, a 23-year-old witness, is unclear on exactly what the girl was transporting, he is quite certain that the burnt remains had Arabic writing on them.
Rifta, he alleges, was burning pages from a Koran inside her house, and then trying to find a place to dispose of the remains. Although he did not see her do this, that did not stop him from assembling an angry group of men and reporting the incident to the local police, with the demand that the girl be apprehended in accordance with the country’s Blasphemy Law. The authorities at first did not act, but then moved swiftly to get the girl into custody when a mob of over 500 people gathered at the Masih home’s doorstep. Fearing for her safety, the authorities put her into a cell for a two-week detention.
Welcome to Pakistan: A nightmare society beyond pity or parody, where handicapped 11-year-old girls must be locked up to ensure their own safety.