Blasphemy execution for Christian Pakistani woman

There has been a lot of debate around about the justification of blasphemy laws in the media this week as a result of the news of the death sentence passed on the Pakistani Christian woman, Aasia Bibi. Our Pakistan expert was interviewed on the BBC Asian network about the case, which you can listen to here.

The 45-year-old mother of five was found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which she vehemently denies. Regardless of one’s view on blasphemy laws, when reading the details of the incident it seems obvious that this is a case of religious persecution, and likely that this is a case of a squabble which has escalated out of all proportion.

Aasia Bibi, was working as a farm labourer in the summer of 2009, when she was asked to fetch some drinking water. When she returned with it, some of the Muslim farmhands refused to drink the water, saying it was “unclean” to accept water from a non-Muslim. Aasia Bibi took offence, which led to an argument between them. So far, so normal. Unpleasant certainly, but not unlike the bullying and exclusion experienced by members of minority groups across the world from the play-ground up.

The Muslim women then complained to the local cleric, however, alleging that Aasia Bibi had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The cleric informed local police who arrested and charged her with insulting the Prophet Muhammad. After a judge refused to consider the possibility that the charges were false or that there might have been mitigating circumstances, she was sentenced to death at the Lahore High Court.

Amnesty International has long argued that charges brought against individuals under the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are often unfounded malicious accusations stemming from personal enmity. This seems a classic example of such an abuse of legislation.  Aasia Bibi, would be the first woman to be executed under these laws, and it would be both a tragedy and a travesty. Call on the authorities to halt this brutal and outmoded execution by taking action here.

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