On Friday, The Christian Post posted an article about Arzoo Raja, a thirteen-year-old girl who was kidnapped and married to a 44-year-old Muslim man.
The article reports:
Arzoo Raja’s parents bowed to touch the feet of Pakistani police officers, begging to see their daughter who was kidnapped by Ali Azhar from their home on Oct. 13, but they refused.
Instead, the high court of Pakistan’s Sindh province changed their daughter’s name to the more Islamic “Arzoo Fatima” and announced that she “understood and realized that Islam is a universal religion,” International Christian Concern reported.
Raja wasn’t able to tell her parents or anyone else what she “understood” about Islam because her abductor, whom the court referred to as her “husband,” has had her locked in a single room after getting her pregnant, International Christian Concern’s South Asia Regional Manager Will Stark told The Christian Post. Azhar has children near Raja’s age.
The article concludes:
Raja was forced to officially convert to Islam by signing a piece of paper, he said. She might have been tortured, threatened, tricked or drugged into signing it. Once she did, the courts could apply Islamic religious law to her case. In Raja’s case, the conversion shouldn’t be legally valid.
“According to Pakistan law, you shouldn’t be able to convert without your parents’ permission until you’re 18,” Stark said. “Arzoo is 13.”
That point probably won’t matter to the court, he said. Although most government officials in Pakistan don’t support Islamic child marriage, they can be bullied by radical Muslim groups. These groups often murder judges when they feel Islam has been shamed.
Pakistan’s signature on U.N. documents that promise to end child marriage means little, Stark said.
“They know if they inject religion into a case, they can play on religious biases to cover up their crimes or retain custody. It’s a concerning update because two cases from the same court have held this way,” he said.
To fight the radical Islamists who support child marriage, people around the world can sign petitions for Raja’s return. Pakistan’s government depends on international aid to survive, so its government can be responsive to international pressure, he said.
“That sort of outside pressure is helpful,” Stark said. “We need to keep pressure on Pakistan so the scales of justice are even.”
This is not acceptable behavior.