Religious hardliners in Pakistan have vowed to administer their own justice should a Christian woman be allowed to go free after being held on blasphemy charges for almost ten years.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court reportedly decided the fate of 45-year-old Christian mother Asia Bibi, who was arrested after supposedly entering into an argument with a group of women about a source of drinking water. The Islamist women accused Bibi of drinking from the same tap as them, to which Bibi allegedly responded, “Jesus Christ died for my sins. What did the prophet Muhammad do for you?” a remark which they believed offended their revered religious figure.
Bibi was sentenced to hanging in 2010, but has since launched several appeals. Following her final appeal Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it had reached a decision but was withholding its ruling “for reasons to be recorded later.” In response, the radical Muslim political party “Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan” (TLP), announced that the justices in the case would meet a “horrible” end should they choose to acquit Bibi, according to AFP.
The group’s leaders have also called for street protests on Friday, after campaigning for a stricter enforcement of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. Others have called for Bibi to be prevented from leaving the country in the event of her release. “Western forces are trying to get Asia Bibi out of the country but she should be hanged,” said a former spokesman for Islamabad’s notorious Red Mosque.
— Naila Inayat (@nailainayat) October 8, 2018
If Bibi’s final appeal is rejected, she will be left with only one last option – a mercy petition to the president.
However, as has been made clear by the radical Islamists, even if she attains freedom, the Christian woman will be at grave risk of being executed by vigilantes. This week, in Pakistan’s second-largest city of Lahore, hundreds of protesters gathered together and chanted “Hang infidel Asia.” Sickeningly, the hashtag #HangAsiaDefend295C was trending among the religious extremists on Twitter yesterday, with the 295c referring 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code which makes it a criminal offense to blaspheme against the Prophet Muhammad.
I can't believe how so many people on twitter are calling for the death of a woman for having an argument #AsiaBibi. #HangAsia has had 200 tweets in the last hour. Why are these people so bloodthirsty? What have we humans become?
— Zeina Toric-Azad (@zeinatoricazad) October 8, 2018
Lahore was the site of one of the worst atrocities committed against the Christian community in recent memory when, in March 2016, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest at an Easter Sunday gathering. At least 75 people were killed and over 340 injured when Taliban-affiliated terror group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar sent a bomber to the main entrance of the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest parks in the city. The majority of the victims were women and children.
In March 2015, two blasts ripped through Lahore’s Saint John Catholic Church and Christ Church, killing at least 15 and wounding 70. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the heinous act.
But despite the horrific persecution and the desire of Islamic extremists to use her case as an example, Bibi is reportedly standing firm in her faith. “She is spending her life praying with a very strong faith and is reading the Bible every day,” Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih said in a recent interview at St. Columba’s Church in England, according to the Catholic Herald.
“She feels when she is praying, Jesus is encouraging and supporting her.”
Masih noted the presence of his wife’s stunning hope and faith despite the seemingly hopeless situation. “She also wanted to deliver a message to the international community that they must remember her in their prayers,” he added. “These prayers will open the door of the prison, and she will be released very soon.”
Continue to pray for Asia, that she would be acquitted and free to leave the country that wishes to see her dead.