Photo credit: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty
By Maajid Nawaz
Asia Bibi is a defenseless Pakistani Christian woman who was maliciously accused of “blasphemy” by her Muslim neighbors. They did this to settle a score after she committed the other “crime,” as a non-Muslim, of drinking water from the same cup as them. Asia was sentenced by Pakistan’s courts to death by hanging in 2010. She languishes in jail awaiting execution until this day. So far, so obscene.
Five years ago, Asia must have thought she had been given a lifeline. Imagine the delight felt by this powerless woman—for Christians are a tiny and discriminated against minority in Pakistan—when the governor of Pakistan’s largest province, the flamboyant secular Muslim, Salmaan Taseer, publicly took up her case. With such a high-profile champion, Asia would have been forgiven for thinking that her savior had arrived and that she would soon be freed.
The world reeled in shock at what happened next.
Pakistan’s mullah mafia proved stronger than the governor of Punjab.
In 2011 Salmaan Taseer was gunned down by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who brutally pumped nine bullets into the body of the man he mercilessly betrayed.
Salmaan’s “crime” was to campaign publicly in defense of Asia, and for a change to Pakistan’s archaic blasphemy laws.
Qadri came to be regarded as a hero by many Barelwi Pakistani Sufi Muslims for “defending” the “honor” of the Prophet Muhammad. And as if to rub acid into the wounds, the assassin was showered with rose petals as he walked to his trial through spontaneous rallies held in his support.
But last week, Qadri finally was executed by the state of Pakistan for his crime. Placing my personal rejection of the death sentence for criminals such as Qadri to one side, the case of Salmaan Taseer should now have been considered closed.
Far from it.
Tens of thousands of Pakistani Muslims joined Qadri’s funeral procession to mourn his death, and to hail him as a martyr.
Aside from how much harder this makes it to imagine the liberation of Asia Bibi from her imprisonment for the thought-crime of “blasphemy,” what this says about the psychological state of the Pakistani nation—and my own Pakistani Muslim heritage—is deeply depressing.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.