Nick McAvelly’s latest guest post concerns Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death for defamation of Islam, and has spent almost four years in a prison cell.
Remember Asia Bibi
by Nick McAvelly
Pakistan is an Islamic country that receives significant Western aid and support. It has some of the most repressive defamation of religion laws in the world, and those laws are enthusiastically enforced.
It is important to note that people who have been brought up as Muslims in Pakistan can be victimised, as well as believers from minority religions. There are no winners in a society which has defamation of religion laws; everyone suffers.
Christians do have a particularly tough time of it. Adults are afraid to discuss their faith with their own children, lest they fall foul of the country’s defamation of religion laws.
There is also a real possibility of acts of violence being perpetrated against individuals by non-state actors. In December 2012 it was reported that an Islamic lynch mob took a man from a police station in the village of Sita where he was being held on defamation of religion charges, doused him in petrol and burned him alive in the street. There have been reports of similar incidents occurring throughout Pakistan.
In March 2013, after an allegation that someone had made a less than complimentary remark about Islam’s prophet, it was reported that a mob of approximately three thousand devout Muslims attacked the homes of Christians in Lahore, Pakistan, and committed “multiple simultaneous arsons” which left over a hundred homes in ruins.
In June 2009, a devout Muslim from the village of Ittan Wali told her co-religionists that a Christian woman called Asia Bibi had drunk some water from a well beside the village, so it was now haram — forbidden by Islamic law — for Muslims to drink from the same well. According to Mrs. Bibi, the Muslim women present then told her that Jesus did not have a “proper” father and was therefore a “bastard” then said that Mrs. Bibi should convert to Islam and abandon her “filthy religion”.
Mrs. Bibi said she would not convert because she believed that Jesus had died on the cross for the sins of all humankind, and asked what Islam’s prophet Mohammed had done to save mankind?
Muslims from her own village thereupon attacked Mrs. Bibi physically and alleged that by asking about Islamic teachings, she had defamed their religion.
The police arrested Mrs. Bibi, and after spending more than a year in prison, she was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead. Asia Bibi has been in a cell from that day to this.
Following Mrs. Bibi’s arrest, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, spoke out against Pakistan’s defamation of religion laws and was murdered by one of his bodyguards. The assassin, a devout Muslim, was showered with roses when he appeared in court and his actions were applauded throughout the country.
Shabaz Bhatti, a Christian serving his country as Minister for Minorities Affairs, also criticised Pakistan’s defamation of religion laws and supported Mrs. Bibi. He too was assassinated in March 2011.
Two years later, the United States Commission on Religious Freedom marked the second anniversary of Bhatti’s murder by calling for the Pakistani government to properly investigate Bhatti’s assassination and finally bring his killers to justice.
The USCIRF has formally recommended that the United States designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern”, given its record of violating its own citizens’ human rights.
Pakistan is leading the OIC’s effort to persuade the UN to put binding defamation of religion legislation in place over other countries.
If we look at Pakistan, then we can see what that would mean.
If you’re tempted to ignore this issue and would rather apply your God-given ability to think rationally to the question of who’s going through to the next round of Britain’s Got Talent, please do one thing before you chill out, sit back with a can of lager and switch on your TV …
Remember Asia Bibi.
|1.||Marshall, P., Gilbert, L., Shea, N., Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, Thomas Nelson, p. 192;
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International Religious Freedom Report 2011, Pakistan, www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?dlid=192933#wrapper accessed 23/04/2013
|2.||Pakistan’s ‘Blasphemy’ Laws Pose Growing Threat, World Watch Monitor, www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2011/05-May/article_112455.html/ accessed 23/04/2013|
|3.||Mob attempts to lynch blasphemy suspect, Dawn, dawn.com/2012/06/18/mob-attempts-to-lynch-blasphemy-suspect/ accessed 24/04/2013;
Mob kills man, burns corpse for desecrating Koran, Dawn, dawn.com/2012/07/04/mob-kills-man-burns-corpse-for-desecrating-quran/ accessed 24/04/2013;
Lynch mob in Pakistan burns man alive for allegedly desecrating Koran, RT, rt.com/news/man-burnt-alive-blasphemy-631/ accessed 24/04/2013
|4.||‘Blasphemy’ revenge: Over 100 Pakistani Christians homes set ablaze, RT, rt.com/news/lahore-pakistan-blasphemy-ablaze-041/ accessed 24/04/2013|
|5.||el Shafie, Majed., Freedom Fighter, Destiny Image Publishers, Kindle Loc. 1304;
Marshall, P., Gilbert, L., Shea, N., Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, Thomas Nelson, p. 194;
Bibi, A., Blasphemy: The true, heartbreaking story of the woman sentenced to death over a cup of water, Hachette Digital, pp. 19-22, pp.34-38;
Crilly, R., Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan ‘for blasphemy’, Daily Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8120142/Christian-woman-sentenced-to-death-in-Pakistan-for-blasphemy.html accessed 25/04/2013;
Pakistani cleric puts bounty on Christian woman’s head, Daily Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8179655/Pakistani-cleric-puts-bounty-on-Christian-womans-head.html accessed 25/04/2013;
Guerin, O., Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi ‘has price on her head’, BBC News, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11930849 accessed 25/04/2013;
Jailed Pakistan Christian Mother Recovering After Prison Violence, BosNewsLife, www.bosnewslife.com/18790-news-alert-jailed-pakistan-christian-mother-recovering-after-prison-violence accessed 25/04/2013
|6.||Punjab Governor Salman Taseer assassinated in Islamabad, BBC News, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12111831 accessed 25/04/2013;
Bruillard, K., As progressive Pakistani politician is mourned, his suspected killer is lauded, Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/05/AR2011010500341.html?sid=ST2011010401338 accessed 25/04/2013;
Bruillard, K., In Pakistan, even anti-violence Islamic sect lauds assassination of liberal governor, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2011/01/04/ST2011010401338.html accessed 25/04/2013;
Swami, P., Salman Taseer: Pakistan must face up to the enemy within, Daily Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8242174/Salman-Taseer-Pakistan-must-face-up-to-the-enemy-within.html accessed 25/04/2013
|7.||Pakistan Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti shot dead, BBC News, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12617562 accessed 26/04/2013;
Marshall, P., Gilbert, L., Shea, N., Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, Thomas Nelson, p. 203
|8.||USCIRF urges Pakistan to take action against violent religious extremism, United States Commission On International Religious Freedom, press release, www.uscirf.gov/images/Pakistan%20Bhatti.pdf accessed 26/04/2013, available at: www.uscirf.gov/news-room/whats-new-at-uscirf/3942-312013-uscirf-urges-pakistan-to-take-action-against-violent-religious-extremism.html accessed 26/04/2013|
|9.||The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”: A Threat to Universal Human Rights Standards, United States Commission On International Religious Freedom, Policy Focus, www.uscirf.gov/images/uscirf%20policy%20focus%20defamation%202010%20update.pdf accessed 06/05/2013, available at: www.uscirf.gov/reports-and-briefs/policy-focus.html accessed 06/05/2013