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.
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.