The Laws of Blasphemy – as exercised in Pakistan

I’ve just finished reading a book, ‘Blasphemy’ – the tragic story of Asia (Aasiya) Bibi, who has been given the death sentence in Pakistan under their blasphemy laws.

[Here’s an extract from her book – First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Virago Press.  Copyright Oh! Editions, 2011. Anne-Isabelle Tollet wrote the book based on information past to her by Asia, through her husband.]

The context is that Asia has passed a cup of water to a Muslim woman, when picking berries on a very hot day. Another woman – then says to the group of pickers: ‘Listen all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back in several times. Now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!’

Asia responds by saying: ‘I think Jesus would see it differently from Muhammad.’ This reply led to a terse exchange of words, which ended, as follows (the woman says to Asia): ‘You should convert to Islam to redeem yourself for your filthy religion.’

Asia’s reply, is fantastic: I’m not going to convert. I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?”

This action and words resulted in Asia being charged with blasphemy; and, on 8 November 2010, in accordance with article 295c of the Pakistani penal code, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging and given a fine of three hundred thousand rupees.

Asia is currently in solitary confinement in a small, dark and dirty, prison cell. There is an appeal to the Lahore High Court, regarding the verdict. However, it appears as of October 2012 that this process has not yet been completed. Consequently, Asia is still in prison.

Two prominent politicians have been killed because they spoke out, against these blasphemy laws, as outlined in this Wikipedia entry: “On 4 January 2011, the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his security team, because of his defence of Asia and opposition to the blasphemy law. Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also assassinated, on 2 March 2011, reportedly also for his position on blasphemy laws.”

The royalties from the book provide Asia and her family some financial support. I recommend that you buy a copy – it’s an easy read about an inspirational woman.

In these seemingly impossible situations – it’s prayer that helps the most.

Any thoughts?