"Libertad para Asia Bibi" by HazteOir.org is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Blasphemy Laws: An Excuse for Persecution

Nov 15, 2018

By The NYT Editorial Board

It is good news that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acquitted and freed a Pakistani Christian woman who had already spent eight years on death row for blasphemy. In a 56-page ruling, the three justices said Asia Bibi, a farmworker in her early 50s, was the victim of mob justice aroused by unsubstantiated claims of what she said about the Prophet Muhammad in an exchange with women angry that she had sipped water from a cup used by Muslims.

Though the trial was a farce, overturning it took courage. In 2011, the governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, who had campaigned for Ms. Bibi’s release and for changes in the blasphemy laws, was shot and killed by his bodyguard. Two months later, the minister of minorities, the sole Christian in the Pakistani government, who had also called for the changes, was killed. The announcement of the Supreme Court ruling on Oct. 31 set off protests across Pakistan and a warning from Islamist firebrands that the justices were risking death. Ms. Bibi has been in hiding since her release and may have to flee Pakistan.

But this is not a story about the triumph of tolerance over antiquated law. Ms. Bibi was freed not because the court found that the blasphemy law violated her rights or was in any other way inherently wrong, but because the trial was flawed. Blasphemy, broadly defined as speaking insultingly about God or religion, remains a capital crime in Pakistan and illegal in many other lands, in the East and the West.

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One comment on “Blasphemy Laws: An Excuse for Persecution”

  • I see the Pakistani authorities have belatedly taken action to deal with the rabid mobs determined to bring their version of “peace” to the streets of the country!

     

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-46329881
    Pakistan’s authorities have held dozens of supporters of a hard-line Islamic cleric whose party led mass protests last month over the acquittal of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.
    Officials say they acted to maintain public order after leaders of the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party refused to call off protests planned for Sunday.

    The cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, was himself detained on Friday.

    The woman, Asia Bibi, is now in hiding because of threats to her life.

    She was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad but was acquitted in October, a ruling that angered many.

    They were made mainly in Pakistan’s central Punjab province.

    Officials say the arrests were necessary to avoid any “backlash” following the arrest of Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

    Punjab Information Minister Fayyaz ul-Hassan Chohan said police had been deployed in all major cities of the province.

    “There is a complete ban on all types of political gatherings in the province,” he said.

    Mr Rizvi – who the authorities say was taken into “protective custody” – had called on his supporters to hold street protests if he were arrested.

    In October, his party virtually paralysed Pakistan with mass protests that at times were violent.

    The government and the TLP later struck a deal to end the protests.

    It was agreed that legal proceedings would begin to place Asia Bibi on a list that would ban her from leaving Pakistan. The government also said it would not block a review petition filed against the court ruling.

    However, the TLP later pledged to resume the protest if Asia Bibi were allowed to leave Pakistan.

    When dealing with fanatics – give then an inch and they will take a mile!!

    Since 1990, at least 65 people have reportedly been killed in Pakistan over claims of blasphemy.

     

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