WASHINGTON: The best Eid message for the Pakistani-American community was the assurance that Pakistan has not arrested or registered a case against a minor Christian girl accused of blasphemy.
The community faced continued embarrassment as US news channels highlighted the case, pointing out that the girl was not only a minor, just 11, but also suffered from Down’s syndrome and had learning difficulties.
The community got on the social media, Facebook and Twitter, to urge authorities in Pakistan to: “Please stop embarrassing us and release the girl,” as one of the messages said.
As they prepared for Eid prayers on Sunday morning, they noticed a tweet from Ambassador Sherry Rehman, assuring the community that she had checked with the Interior Ministry who told her that “the girl has not been arrested” and that they had “not allowed a case against her.”
She also said that President Asif Ali Zardari had “taken a serious note” of the case, causing some to tweet back: “Why just a serious note? Why can’t the president release the poor girl?”
The Pakistani media reported on Sunday that an 11-year-old Christian girl had been arrested for allegedly desecrating pages of a book containing religious text.
She was detained for blasphemy after an angry mob demanded her arrest and threatened to burn down Christian homes in Islamabad.
The report of her arrest caused widespread resentment across the world, as the international media highlighted her case and rights groups urged the Pakistani government to release her.
Equally reassuring for Pakistani and other Muslims living in America was a message of hope and reconciliation from President Barack Obama.
Mr Obama noted in his Eid message that for Muslims around the globe the past four weeks were “a time of fasting, prayer and spiritual renewal” and also a reminded “to serve the less fortunate.” Ramadan also reminded Muslims “of the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other,” he said.
The Muslim Americans, he noted, “enrich our national life, strengthen our democracy and uphold our freedoms, including the freedom of religion,” said the US president.
“On behalf of the American people, we congratulate Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world on this joyous day. Eid Mubarak!”
The reported arrest of a minor Christian girl in Pakistan was also was an unpleasant distraction for Ambassador Rehman who, on Saturday night, was cheerfully greeting US lawmakers and their spouses to the first ever Chand Raat celebration at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.
“I like it? No, I love it,” said the wife of a congressman as she sat under the shamiana and spread her hand to a Pakistan girl to make henna patterns on her hands.
“Thank you for such a lovely Chand Raat and for mehndi, bangles, jalebis and everything,” said Hannah Bloch, an American journalist who also attended the party.
“Kudos for starting a great tradition,” said a State Department official, waving her henna-patterned hand.
“The henna was a show-stopper,” acknowledged Ambassador Rehman as people queued in front of the henna stall, some waiting for hours. “And this could not have been possible without support from the vibrant Pakistan community here that made the Chand Raat such a success,” noted the ambassador.
Although the ambassador and her American guests focused on the henna, the Pakistanis were equally enthusiastic about the bangles stall where girls and women received a set of 12-bangles each as Eid gift from the embassy.
For kids, there were free qulfis, cotton candies and face paints. Many had the Pakistani flag painted on their faces. In the courtyard, Waris Baig and other Pakistani singers entertained the guests with folk and popular songs.
The function, which started before iftar, was supposed to end at 10 but continued till midnight.