As a 10th-grade, Muslim girl living in a predominantly Christian nation, I am appalled at the plight of an 11-year-old Christian girl charged with blasphemy in Pakistan. How can Muslims abuse minorities in their countries and expect to be respected in the West?
Approximately two weeks ago, an 11-year-old, illiterate Christian girl was jailed on charges of blasphemy, which, in Pakistan, is punishable by death. Her crime? Burning some pages of the Noorani Qaida (no, it has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda). It is a book designed to teach children how to read the Holy Quran. This girl, who goes by the name of Ramsha, lives in one of Pakistan's many dirt-poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad. According to the New York Times, she is mentally challenged and may have Down's Syndrome. Police officers, however, have denied this claim.
The bigoted Muslim clerics in Pakistan have raised such a big fuss over this incidence. Ramsha is now facing the death penalty, even though it is likely that she didn't even know what she was doing. What an injustice!
When I was 13 years old, I too faced injustice, right here in America. Ladies from my mosque were holding a seminar at a local library to educate people about the true teachings of the Holy Quran. I was wearing a hijab (Islamic head covering). As I was passing out flyers to promote the event in the lobby of the library, a Caucasian lady wearing dark clothes and sunglasses angrily approached me. I innocently asked if she would like to attend our function. But she screamed, "I'm not interested in the Quran at all!" She called the security guard and demanded that I should not be allowed to stand in the lobby and pass out flyers. Even though the library had explicitly allowed me to distribute the flyers earlier, the guard told me that I could only show the flyers to people without passing them out. So that's what I did.
But a few minutes later, the same lady brought the security guard back again. "I don't think it's right," she said. I was asked to leave the lobby, leave the flyers and go inside the room where the function was being held.
At first I was very upset. I cried. I felt harassed. But when the librarian was informed of what happened, she at once apologized to me for what the lady had done. And I started feeling better because someone realized that what had been done to me was unjust.
But for Ramsha, her country's system is actually harming her, and no one is realizing it. Let's compare the two incidences and see how they are so similar, yet so different.
Ramsha and I were around the same age when we faced injustice. Both of our actions bothered ignorant and intolerant people who raised a big fuss. Both incidences involved religion. But the big difference is that I live in a country where majority of the people are tolerant, where the laws favor equality and freedom of expression. Ramsha lives in a country where majority of the people have strayed away from the true teachings of Islam and hence have become intolerant. The laws favor mainstream Muslims and they impose limits on the freedom of expression. That is why I recovered but Ramsha is facing the death penalty for a crime she probably did not know she was committing.
If the Muslim countries want to prosper, they should show a lot more tolerance for minorities and treat them with respect -- the same respect that they expect from Christian countries. They should reform their laws to make them more just. And they should learn to deal with any crime -- planned or accidental -- in a more patient way. That would be according to the true teachings of the Holy Quran.