Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has for years been on death row in Pakistan for alleged “blasphemy” against Muhammad, has been acquitted by the Pakistani Supreme Court and ordered to be freed – but she is by no means out of danger.
It all started for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic wife and mother, on June 14, 2009 – or more precisely, it all ended for her on that day. She recounted in August 2013:
I, Asia Bibi, have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.
Picking fruit with a group of Muslim women, Bibi was ordered to fetch water for them – and drank a bit of it herself in the stifling heat. A Muslim woman rebuked her for doing so, saying to the other women: “Listen, all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back several times. Now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!”
Bibi stood up to her, responding: “I think Jesus would see it differently from Mohammed.” That drove the Muslim women into a fury, and they started yelling at Bibi: “How dare you think for the Prophet, you filthy animal!” That’s right, you’re just a filthy Christian! You’ve contaminated our water and now you dare speak for the Prophet! Stupid bitch, your Jesus didn’t even have a proper father, he was a bastard, don’t you know that. You should convert to Islam to redeem yourself for your filthy religion.”
The embattled woman stood her ground, responding: “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 Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?”
Several days later, she was arrested for blasphemy as an enraged mob beat her and screamed, “Death! Death to the Christian!” She has been in prison ever since, awaiting execution for her “crime.”
But in a decision that brought an abrupt and unexpectedly happy ending to her case, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that Bibi had made a statement in which she “expressed her full respect to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the Holy Quran and she offered to take an oath on the Bible to the Investigation Officer (IO) to prove her innocence which was refused by the IO. Therefore, the appellant being innocent deserves acquittal.”
The Supreme Court noted the thinness of the prosecution’s case: “The entirety of the prosecution case revolved around the statement of two ladies, namely, Mafia Bibi (PW.2 [that is, prosecution witness 2]) and Asma Bibi (PW.3) and the extra-judicial confession of appellant. The said (PW’s) stated that the appellant, in the presence of other Muslim ladies, passed derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم). It is pertinent to mention here that admittedly, as is evident from the contents of the FIR and also the statements of the witnesses, there were 25-30 ladies present at the spot when the appellant allegedly passed blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), however, none of the other ladies except Mafia Bibi (PW.2) and Asma Bibi (PW.3) reported the matter to anyone. At this stage, it is to be noted that the said ladies did not appear before the Court to support the prosecution case.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling, as might be expected in an Islamic Republic, was thoroughly Islamic. It noted that “no one could be allowed to defy the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and be left unpunished.” It added, however, that “there is another aspect of the matter; sometimes, to fulfill nefarious designs the law is misused by individuals leveling false allegations of blasphemy. Stately, since 1990, 62 people have been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations, even before their trial could be conducted in accordance with law.”
And that is the danger that Asia Bibi faces now. CNN reported Wednesday that the Islamic movement Tehreek-e Labbaik “had previously vowed to take to the streets if Bibi was released, and protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced. Within hours, the protests were large enough that government officials in the cities were urging people to stay inside and avoid adding to the chaos.”
Asia Bibi has suffered enough. She should be granted asylum in the United States or some other country where she can live in relative safety, away from the mobs that are today brandishing signs reading “Hang Asia” and baying for her blood. It’s a matter of simple justice, something that Asia Bibi has had very little opportunity to experience. Those who hope that Asia Bibi will now receive justice may hope that President Trump will step in and ensure that she is brought to a safe haven – before he tackles the related and larger question of whether the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is in any genuine sense an ally of the United States.