Asia Bibi: Christian Mother of Five Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy in Pakistan

Pakistan’s population is 170 million, three million of whom are Christians. The country also has three million Hindus and a miniscule Sikh community (about 20,000 people). Presumably there are no out of the closet atheists anywhere in Pakistan. And no Jews.

Below is an image of one of Pakistan’s Christian citizens. Her name is Asia Bibi. She’s 45-years-old, a mother of five children, and she has just been sentenced to death for blaspheming the prophet Muhammad.

Isn’t that lovely?

Presumably her sentence will be reversed on appeal, but she has sat in prison since June of last year and her family has (obviously) been traumatized by the whole charade. Here’s The Telegraph:

Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan. Ashiq Masih, her husband, said he had not had the heart to break the news to two of their children. “I haven’t told two of my younger daughters about the court’s decision,” he said. “They asked me many times about their mother but I can’t get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed.” Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.

And the whole kill-the-blasphemer thing got started when some self-righteous Muslim women decided that Asia Bibi was too unclean (being a Christian) to receive a drink from:

The court heard she had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water. Some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore “unclean”, according to Mrs Bibi’s evidence, sparking a row. The incident was forgotten until a few days later when Mrs Bibi said she was set upon by a mob. The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety. Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, said: “The police were under pressure from this Muslim mob, including clerics, asking for Asia to be killed because she had spoken ill of the Prophet Mohammed. “So after the police saved her life they then registered a blasphemy case against her.” He added that she had been held in isolation for more than a year before being sentenced to death on Monday.

Now hold on here. I thought Islam respects religious diversity and embraces peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims, and that these are values that all Muslims are taught (because they are supposedly articulated in no uncertain terms in the Quran).

But if this is the case, why haven’t the Muslims in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, gotten this important memo? Why are they so crass? And what has made them so crass—and even grotesque, cruel, and inhumane? Is this what a Muslim majority community is supposed to behave like, or are these people fundamentally misunderstanding the heart of their own religion?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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14 Responses to Asia Bibi: Christian Mother of Five Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy in Pakistan

  1. Thanks for sharing. This is disgusting.

    😦

  2. concerned christian says:

    How many times we were told that ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’? Sadly by the way the United States is reacting to the vicious and inhumane behavior by many “at least a hundred million of Muslim fanatics” spreading all over the world, we are allowing evil to triumph. From elite media who avoid informing the public about many of the crimes committed by Muslim fanatics, to a president and administration that appease Muslims by not condemning radical Islam. This is just a repetition of how the West dealt with Hitler while he was promoting his Aryan Nation. I said it once and I will say it again the future of Western civilization is at stake and so far the future is bleak.

    • Concerned, do you have any suggestions for what could be done?

      For myself, at present I am thinking each community needs to reign in its own wrongdoers.

      Christians need to speak to, and halt their bigots and violent.
      Atheists need to speak to, and halt their bigots and violent.
      Muslims need to speak to, and halt their bigots and violent.

      How this would happen, I don’t yet know. Generally it would be the moderates in each group that would be doing this, and the “fundamentalists” don’t want to listen, they regard the moderates as apostate or lukewarm.

      • concerned christian says:

        Here are three suggestions
        1. Reduce our dependency on Oil, so we can challenge countries such as Saudi Arabia which is using its fortune to spread the Wahabi’s teachings through Muslim Schools and Mosques in countries from Indonesia to Pakistan and even here in the States.
        2. Understand the threat of ideologies such as the Muslim brotherhood which started in Egypt in the first decades of the twentieth century but still has a strong influence in Arab countries and is dominating many Muslim organizations in the West. This ideology teaches its followers to work on spreading Islam by all means. Many of the Muslim organizations in College campuses and well known outfits such as CAIR, and even some Muslims in the current white house are influenced by the Muslim brotherhood ideology.
        3. Demand honest reporting by the MSM. Today most of the evil committed by radical Muslims is not reported by the MSM because they are still blinded by their multicultural ideology. Until the West is fully informed about what is happening in Muslim countries, these tragedies will continue to happen.

      • santitafarella says:

        Concerned:

        I agree with you on #1.

        #2 requires people to read history, and most people can’t be bothered.

        #3 requires complexity and nuance, and it’s not obvious to me that traditional television is capable of too much of this.

        Thankfully, Islamic civilization is not at the forefront of the global economic engine (as the Buddhist Far East is). The burden of change, in other words, is on Islamic civilization, not the world.

        Thank Jesus for Buddhist missionaries entering China from India two millenia ago. That’s what’s really keeping a lid on the crisis that you fear: the strongest countries of the 21st century are not dominated by Muslim regimes.

        —Santi

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned,

      I share Spritzo’s view that each community needs to find its path to moderation.

      I do think, however, that your Hitler analogy is dubious. It is an enormous tragedy for the world that so many people are under the thumb of Islamic authoritarian states, but I do not think that these regimes represent a serious existential threat to the West’s existence. Islamic extremism can be managed and contained (and we are doing so). That doesn’t change the fact that there are outrages in the world (such as the one I mention in the post above).

      And the violence and intolerance on display in the Muslim world is a sign of its intellectual and moral failure, not of its rise. The broken wheel squeaks loudest. Fifty years from now the Muslim world will be less fundamentalist in its sympathies, not more so. And if it is not, it will simply be bypassed by the advance of Western history. You can’t keep up with freer nations unless you release minds into freedom. The young people in these Muslim societies are not going to let the 21st century bypass them. Look at how difficult a time the mullahs are having reigning in their college students and young people in general. Last summer the whole Iranian regime nearly upended. And their nuclear weapons building facilities appear to be stalled by cyber viruses from the West. Countries like Iran are basically stuck in the mud. The world will pass them by if they don’t get their acts together. Islam is a religion in crisis. That makes it potentially explosive, but not unmanagable from our end.

      If China was a Muslim nation, your analogy would have force. One thing I noticed about Obama’s visit to the Far East was this: when he stood in front of Buddhas I felt good about the human future. I thought, “Well, it’s a good thing that the next wave of human economic advance is emerging out of traditionally Buddhist socieites.” Buddhism, like contemporary Christianity, seems capable of adjusting to modernism. Islam will have to find its way to do this as well. It’s playing catch-up but I think it will get there.

      —Santi

      • concerned christian says:

        Santi
        Hitler started his threat from one country, Germany. Today most of Western Europe, through immigration and demographic shifts, are in danger of becoming Muslim dominated countries within few decades. Europe is trying to avoid this bleak future, but unless they come up with more radical solutions than banning the Hejab, they are doomed.

      • santitafarella says:

        Concerned,

        Well, they are doing just that. I think what you’re worried about is managable. I suppose Europeans could goof it up, but I doubt they will. It’s not in their interest to screw up their hard-earned Enlightenment gains. Why would they exchange bread for a stone?

        —Santi

      • “Fifty years from now the Muslim world will be less fundamentalist in its sympathies, not more so. And if it is not, it will simply be bypassed by the advance of Western history.”

        I hope this is true. Well, not so much the latter.

        Ironically, the more the good part of the west (freedom of speech, value of intellect) can get into Islamic states the better. Sad, as in times past Islam was at the forefront of philosophy and learning.

  3. Concerned, in reply to your 3 suggestions:

    I tend to agree with Santi. In addition, they are “BIG picture” things that little people like me feel we can’t do anything about. It’s possible that after many years of pressure the US government would reduce it’s Middle East oil dependance. ( A good thing about green and climate change pressures? Move to alternative fuels?)

    However, I’m asking what an ordinary local person like myself can do. Too often we depend on “big” national campaigns that don’t require anything of us personally apart from signing our name on the dotted line.

    This is why I think Santi’s “Meal with a Muslim” and similar are better. True grassroots, and “Small is beautiful”. My question at the moment is, how do we get “liberal” or “moderate” believers to communicate to and contain their extreme bretheren?

    • concerned christian says:

      http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:EGY&dl=en&hl=en&q=egypt+population#met=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:EGY:DZA:MAR:ITA:FRA:NOR:PAK:IDN
      Spritzophrenia
      I agree that the most important thing we can personally do is to openly discuss this problem and that is exactly what we are doing.
      Concerning the Islamization of Europe, reading carefully the information in the link you posted shows that most of the rebuttal is in the margins, namely “no it’s not 2.5 million it is probably closer to 2 million!” and “we really don’t know the religion of these people because we don’t keep track of these statistics”. But we can not ignore the fact that Europe has a problem with Muslim influx, which is getting worse. To understand the source of this problem, I posted a link showing the population growth over the last 50 years, while the West is stabilizing its population Muslim countries have a runaway problem with population explosion. This uncontrolled problem is destabilizing many Muslim countries and the only safety valve is migration to West especially Europe which happens to be nearby. So they are not only destroying their own homelands they are also spreading their troubles into Europe. And the reason there is no population control in Muslim countries is that they are told by their prophet and their scholars that their first duty as a Muslim is to increase in numbers by either breeding or converting infidels.

      • “I agree that the most important thing we can personally do is to openly discuss this problem”.

        I want to be clear that I think we must openly discuss this problem WITH Muslims. The more we discuss it only within our own enclaves, the more separate and distrustful we become. This, in turn leads to more potential for violence.

        A hope, I believe, is for moderate Muslims to increase their influence. I suspect that interference, legislation or violence by “infidels” will only increase the distrust and make radicalisation more likely.

        The same is true of any conflict group, say atheists and christians.

        I don’t pretend this is easy, or that i am particularly good at it myself.

  4. concerned christian says:

    In addition to speaking with Muslims, I strongly believe that we need open discussions between all of us both liberals and conservatives about todays challenges including the role of Islam in modern societies. These discussions should produce positive results as long as we avoid name calling and focus on trying to reach logical and meaningful conclusions. So far the West can not figure out what to do with atrocities committed in the name of Islam. It was easier to condemn repressive regimes as long as their atrocities were linked to a social or national movements. It was also easy to continue to condemn Christianity for whatever happened hundreds of years ago, but somehow condemning ongoing Muslim atrocities is ignored by MSM and considered to be only motivated by bigotry and ignorance.

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