The former neighbors of Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, have said that they still wish to see her executed despite the fact she was acquitted on bogus blasphemy charges in October.
Bibi, who is currently being held at an undisclosed location in Islamabad, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010, before finally being cleared of all charges this year. But despite her clear-cut acquittal, many from Bibi’s hometown insist that she should still be put to death.
“She confessed her crime in front of them, how can they forgive her?” asked Mohammad Bota, the older brother of the farm owner on whose land Bibi was accused, according to the Telegraph.
Many other villagers agreed with that sentiment.
“I would die in the name of my religion and if someone has committed blasphemy, then they are not forgiven,” said local farmer Shawkat Ali. “If the Supreme Court has some faith in religion and if they are Muslims, they should execute her.”
Bibi’s original conviction came after she was alleged to have insulted the prophet Muhammad during a dispute on a communal farm in Punjab province. Following the verbal altercation with two Muslim women, Bibi was reported to the local Imam, Qari Salam, who invoked the legal process against the Christian mother.
— Naila Inayat (@nailainayat) December 24, 2018
Now, following her exoneration, Salam believes that a terrible miscarriage of justice has taken place.
“We believe that our case was on merit and she deserves the death sentence according to the law,” Salam explained.
“Many women of the village, when they heard about this judgment, they were in shock. This is how strongly people feel, because this incident was so strong and so clear and in front of so many people.”
Bibi is currently waiting for the Supreme Court to conduct a review of her case after radical Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) struck a deal with the government in order to end weeks of fierce rioting which erupted after the landmark acquittal.
Pior to her vindication, 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, with the 295c referring to “295-C” of Pakistan’s penal code which makes it a criminal offense to blaspheme against the Prophet Muhammad.
According to the Penal Code itself, 295-B refers to the prohibiting of “Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur’an,” and 295-C is in reference to the “use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet.” Other non-Islamic-specific violations contained in Pakistan’s criminal laws include “trespassing on burial places” and “disturbing religious assembly.”
Those who have chosen to support Bibi’s cause have all faced grave consequences. In addition to the threat against Bibi, her family and the justices involved in her acquittal, other prominent politicians have lost their lives in the pursuit of religious freedom.
In 2011, shortly after Bibi’s conviction, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was brutally murdered for speaking out in support of the wrongly convicted Christian woman. Shot dead on the streets of Islamabad, his own bodyguard was found guilty of the heinous crime and, though sentenced to death himself, he has since become a cult hero with a large shrine in his honor erected on the outskirts of the capital city.
Just two months later, Christian politician and outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also assassinated — shot dead by the Pakistani Taliban as he traveled to work.
WHAT IS THE LATEST ON ASIA BIBI’S ASYLUM REQUEST?
Despite numerous dialogues between Pakistan and various western nations, asylum has still yet to be granted to the Christian mother. Offers have been made from nations across the globe including Canada, Italy and Australia. More recently, British politicians have been piling pressure on the UK government to act and grant Bibi asylum. Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review of the plight of persecuted Christians across the globe following Britain’s sluggish response to the plight of Asia Bibi.
“Britain has long championed international religious freedom,” he said, announcing the review, which will be headed up by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Reverend Philip Mounstephen.
“So often, the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority,” Hunt added, as reported by the BBC.
In a statement published at Gov.uk, Hunt continued:
“It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk.
We should be willing to state that simple fact – and adjust our policies accordingly.
The Apostle Paul foretold of the suffering that Christians would face through the ages, but still saw reason to hope: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.’
It is time to echo that message of hope to the persecuted church around the world; with our deeds as well as our words.”
The foreign secretary noted the case of Asia Bibi, who he said had been “beaten, imprisoned, and despite being acquitted still lives under constant guard because of the threat of mob justice. Her plight, Hunt said, had “moved the hearts of the British public.”
When previously quizzed over the British government’s failure to offer a safe haven for Bibi, Prime Minister Theresa May previously stated that, while the situation was complex, “the absolute prime concern” was the “safety and security” of Asia Bibi and her family. Many interpreted this as an empty promise to protect a woman who is at grave risk of being killed for her faith.