Monday, November 21, 2011

The tragedy of Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi lives in Pakistan. She is a wife and the mother of five children. She is also a Christian.

One day she went out to work in the fields with some other women, who were Muslims. She is said to have drawn water for them, which they refused to drink because they said it was contaminated by having been handled by a Christian. They tried to convert her to Islam, but she stood up for her faith in Christ. The women said she made a disparaging remark about the prophet Mohammed; this she denies.

Asia was taken to court, charged with blasphemy against the prophet, and sentenced to death by hanging.

The Muslim cleric in Asia's home town has promised if Pakistan does not execute her, he will kill her himself. Another cleric has promised a $6,000 reward to anyone who murders her. Asia is kept in solitary confinement in case she is attacked in prison. Her family is in hiding.

A government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, who spoke up for Asia, was shot dead by Muslim extremists. Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who called for a pardon for Asia, was shot dead by one of his bodyguards. The judge at the trial of the bodyguard had threats on his life and was forced to leave the country.

It is a year since Asia was condemned. She has appealed against the conviction, but it may be years before her appeal is heard. Her case became known abroad, and many outside Pakistan have complained to the Pakistani authorities. If her sentence is commuted, there will be uproar in Pakistan. If she is executed, there will be indignation abroad.

Meanwhile, Asia Bibi languishes in a tiny cell, still under sentence of death, a victim of Islam and religious hatred.