French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran on Saturday went to the defense of the young Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy, stressing that she “cannot read or write.”
Interviewed on Radio Vatican, Tauran, who is in charge of interfaith dialogue in the Vatican, said “that before asserting a sacred text has been the object of scorn, it is worth checking the facts.”
Rimsha, aged 11 to 16 according to different reports, is accused of burning pages from a children’s religious instruction book inscribed with verses from the Koran, Islam’s holy book. She was arrested and remanded in custody last Thursday.
But Tauran said that Rimsha “is a girl who cannot read or write and collects garbage to live on and picked up the fragments of the book which was in the middle of the rubbish.”
“The more serious and tense the situation, the more necessary it is to have dialogue,” added the cardinal, who was the late pope John Paul II’s foreign minister.
He also told the daily Il Sussidiario, that he believed it “impossible in the light of the facts that the girl had tried to express her scorn for the sacred book of Islam.”
The youngster reportedly has Down’s Syndrome and her arrest has prompted outrage from rights groups and concern from Western governments.
Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, insulting the prophet Mohammed is punishable by death and burning a sacred text by life imprisonment.
Rights groups say the legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas.
Rishma had been due to appear in court on Saturday but police and her lawyer said Friday that the hearing had been put back to August 31.
[File photo via Agence France-Presse]