[by Dean Smith] While in the U.S., Houston City Council has subpoenaed the speeches, notes, emails and even texts of five pastors concerning any discussions they had on homosexuality, gender identity and the city’s openly gay mayor Annise Parker with threats of imprisonment or fines if they don’t comply, on the other side of the world a woman is fighting for her life for much the same reason — the freedom to be a Christian and believe in the Bible.
It is only the severity of the punishment that is different.
Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, 46, languishes in jail, after a Pakistani court sentenced her to hanging for blaspheming Muhammad. She recently lost an appeal to have this death sentence over turned. The reality is, the extremist state is punishing Asia because she would not recant her Christian faith and become a Muslim.
Asia’s troubles started in 2009 while harvesting fruit for a farmer. Asia was asked to get water from a well, but while there she took a drink herself using an old tin cup.
Because she was a Christian, Asia was then accused by a fellow worker of contaminating the water, making it unclean for the other Muslims. Not surprisingly, the person making the accusation was a neighbor involved in a long-running feud with Asia’s family over property in the village.
When the workers began to criticize Asia’s Christian faith, she responded that Jesus had died for the sins of the world and asked the Muslims what Muhammad had done for mankind.
Later the Muslim women went to a local Muslim cleric accusing Asia of making disparaging remarks against Muhammad. When a mob showed up at Asia’s home, the police came to rescue her and then arrested her for blasphemy.
When Asia was given the chance to avoid the charge by becoming a Muslim — Asia refused.
Pakistan has a blasphemy law with a death penalty. The law has been in place for decades, but was recently revamped making it a deadly tool for extremists. Pakistan is 96% Muslim.
However, since there is no explanation in the law of what blasphemy involves it is very open-ended. The law is often used in property disputes when one person wants control of another person’s property and is also routinely used for revenge.
The system is so backwards, people are not even able to repeat the supposed blasphemous statements in court because they in turn would be charged with blasphemy. It is the old, well you will just have to take my word for it accusation.
In 2010, the court sentenced Asia to death by hanging for blasphemy. This was followed by several unsuccessful appeals.
Many expected the judges would over rule the death sentence in Asia’s most recent appeal. The two witnesses who accused Asia of blasphemy never even bothered to show up. The only one who did show up was a Muslim cleric who said he never heard Asia utter the actual blasphemy, but said Asia had admitted doing it to him.
Speaking on behalf of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Nasir Saeed said:
“I am very disappointed with today’s result and my thoughts and prayers are with Asia’s family. It is not surprising that the judges were swayed by pressure from local influential Muslims, but I had hoped that justice would prevail and that the case would be judged based on its merits.
While the rest of the world condemns such draconian laws, Pakistan continues to persecute its minorities simply because of their religion.”
CLAAS works for Christians in Pakistan.
Asia has one last court she can appeal to — the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Since 2010, two other murders have taken place directly related to Asia’s case. Former Punjabi Governor Salamaan Taser and Pakistan’s Christian minorities minister Shabatz Bhatti — both who had criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy laws — were assassinated because of their direct support for Asia. Tasar, a Muslim, was killed by his guard.
It is not unusual for those charged with blasphemy to be murdered in jail and judges, fearing for their own lives, are reluctant to release even those wrongly accused of blasphemy.