It's time I returned to my much-neglected blog. For some time now, I've been trying to care a little less about religion because it was beginning to affect other areas of my life too much; now, however, something's happened about which I cannot NOT comment.
Yesterday, the 19th of August 2012, many news outlets around the world reported that a child in Pakistan - part of a small, Christian community - had been arrested on suspicion of burning pages from the qur'an. The girl in question is reported to be eleven years of age, and the mob's reaction to the "crime" she's accused of has led to hundreds of people being forced from their homes. It is alleged that the child was beaten before being arrested, and that she may even face the death penalty for "blasphemy".
Now, I hope I don't need to point out to anyone all that's wrong with the idea of "blasphemy" as a crime - free speech, right to dissent etc. etc.. And I hope I don't need to explain why executing anyone for anything is a brutal and backwards way to run your country. But that's not what I want to talk about.
Here's what's pissing me off. There are reports that the child may be mentally disabled; some outlets are saying she has Down's syndrome, others that she has an unspecified mental illness. The BBC, in particular, seem to be making a big thing of this, as can be seen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19311098
Here's my question. HOW IS HER MENTAL HEALTH STATUS RELEVANT?!
What does it matter?! In any sane society, any person has the right to burn any damn book they like (as long as it's not rare or someone elses property), and little as we may like it we can't punish them for it. The BBC and others, by making such a fuss of the possibility that this child is mentally disabled, are making an excuse for her that simply IS NOT REQUIRED.
If a mentally disabled person commits a crime, we quite rightly assess whether they were able to appreciate the wrongness and/or ramifications of what they were doing before we decide whether to punish them. If it is found that they could not understand why what they were doing was wrong, we don't imprison them although we may detain them for their own and others' safety.
Here's the catch; "blasphemy", by any non-insane definition, is not a crime. If this poor child DID burn a book, no one was harmed by that action. By being at such pains to point out that she may not have understood what she was doing, the BBC is lending credence to the ludicrous notion that what she did was wrong and in need of excusing. This attitude is not only factually laughable, it's dangerous too since it carries the implication that threatening to execute this little girl would somehow be acceptable and reasonable were she not disabled.