Pakistan overturns death sentence of “blaspheming” Christian

Of all the countries I wouldn’t want to live in because of government and civil repression, the first is, of course, North Korea. The second, however, is Pakistan. Not only did they ban my website because I “offended the sentiments of Muslims”, but, as a vociferous nonbeliever (and a secular Jew), I’d be a goner.

And that was supposed to be the fate of Aasia Bibi, as this Guardian article—as well as Wikipedia—report (click on screenshot):

The details of her case show a country steeped in hatred, ignorance, and faith (some of these words might be redundant). The story started in June of 2009 (9 years ago!), when Bibi was bringing water to a group of farm workers in her village. Bibi was a Christian, a mother of four, and then 38 years old. The other workers, who were Muslim, objected to Bibi touching the bowl, and she might even have taken a sip from it.

The details of the altercation then are unclear, but Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. (As the Supreme Court just ruled, this claim was probably fabricated as a form of revenge or denigration.) She was arrested, and in December of 2010 was sentenced to hanging for that blasphemy. She would have been the first woman executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

She’s been in prison now for almost 8 years, and in solitary confinement on death row. During that time, various organizations have pressed for her release, but that only resulted in two people being assassinated. As Wikipedia reports:

The verdict, which was reached in a district court, needed to be upheld by a superior court, had received worldwide attention. Various petitions advocating for Noreen’s [this is another name of Bibi] release were created by organisations aiding persecuted Christians such as Voice of the Martyrs, including one that received 400,000 signatures, were organized to protest Noreen’s imprisonment, and Pope Benedict XVI, and later Pope Francis, publicly called for the charges against her to be dismissed.  She received less sympathy from her neighbors and Islamic religious leaders in the country, some of whom adamantly called for her to be executed. Minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer were both assassinated for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws. Noreen’s family went into hiding after receiving death threats, some of which threatened to kill Asia if released from prison.

In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence, but the next year the Supreme Court suspended the death sentence pending appeals. Her hearing the next year was postponed because several judges, also threatened with assassination unless they voted the “right way” (for death, of course), refused to be present at the hearing, which was suspended. Jebus! What a country!

Yesterday, though, Bibi was finally acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court of the blasphemy charge (you can see the verdict at the link). To show you how dysfunctional that country is, here’s what happened after her acquital (from the Guardian). There was widespread rioting, hatred, and calls for various deaths. The “TLP” referred to below is, as the Guardian notes (my emphasis), the “Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a fast-growing political party dedicated solely to the punishment of blasphemy.” Double Jebus!

The court, in a three-member bench led by the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, ordered Bibi’s release on Wednesday morning in Islamabad. By the afternoon, thousands of club-wielding demonstrators had blocked highways, burned tyres and pelted police with stones in major cities including Islamabad and Karachi.

Publication of the 56-page ruling was delayed for three weeks after blasphemy campaigners promised to “paralyse” the country and kill the judges if they did not uphold Bibi’s death sentence.

. . . Justice Asif Khosa, in a verdict widely praised for its courage and rigour, noted that the two sisters who accused Bibi “had no regard for the truth” and that the claim she smeared the prophet in public was “concoction incarnate”.

“It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’,” Khosa went on, “but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”

Authorities have removed Bibi from Adiala jail, in Rawalpindi, as they seek to get her out of the country as quickly as possible. In a phone call with AFP before her release, she said: “I can’t believe what I am hearing. Will I go out now? Will they let me out, really? I just don’t know what to say, I am very happy, I can’t believe it.”

The media has been prevented from discussing the case since the verdict was reserved on 8 October and footage of the spreading protests on Wednesday was avoided by increasingly censored TV stations.

In the past 24 hours, paramilitary security forces have deployed across the capital, protecting the judges’ enclave and the diplomatic zone. About 300 police were stationed to guard the supreme court. The southern province of Sindh has imposed a 10-day ban on rallies of any kind.

Thousands of club-wielding supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a fast-growing political party dedicated solely to the punishment of blasphemy, took to the streets.

Khadim Rizvi, the TLP leader, announced he would “paralyse the country within hours” if Bibi was freed and acolytes returned to the Faizabad interchange in Islamabad, the site of a three-week-long protest camp held by the party last year that crippled the capital.

One TLP chief, Afzal Qadri, said all three judges were now liable for death and called for the army to mutiny against its leaders if they supported the decision.

Today in Pakistan, the schools are closed, the roads are deserted, and troops have been deployed throughout the country. All because a woman was acquitted of blasphemy after a false accusation, and then languished in prison for over 7 years. And in solitary confinement (there are reports that she’s become mentally unstable)! This video from the Guardian shows the loons protesting the acquittal:

So to those like John Gray and Sean Illing, who say that countries cannot survive without religion, and that religion fulfills various essential human needs, I ask, “Have you considered Islam?” Even Republicans, whipped up to a frenzy by our own loony “President,” don’t call for death in this way (though they have called for Hillary to be locked up).

Only religion or hyper-extreme political ideology can inspire this kind of lunacy. And so the New Atheists and anti-theists are right to call for religion to be mocked, denigrated, and eventually eliminated (not by force, of course!).

Of course, thanks to WordPress’s helpful censorship of this site, no Pakistani will get a chance to read this post, but they already know about the Bibi affair because their whole country is in turmoil.  And it’s just about as likely to become a sane country as is North Korea.

ADDENDUM: If you want to hear another horrifying story of someone falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, but this time tortured and killed (by students!), go read about the death of Mashal Khan. He was murdered just last year.

66 Comments

  1. Richard
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Perhaps one of them thar Sophisticamated Theologians (TM) could explain to us why this is really a good thing…

  2. Joseph O’Sullivan
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Yes she was acquitted, but the court did not say she could not be executed for blasphemy. That is allowed in the Pakistani legal system. The court said the evidence against her was too flimsy to support her conviction,

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      That was indeed the point that immediately came to mind. Note, I still give some kudos to the Supreme Court daring to actually finding the evidence insufficient.

    • eric
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes exactly. The supreme court ruled she didn’t commit the crime of blasphemy; they seemed perfectly happy to maintain the current legal position that blasphemy is a crime worthy of the death sentence.

      • Posted November 12, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        I do not know the prerogatives of the Pakistan Supreme Court. In my country, the Supreme Court is not authorized to pass judgement on existing laws.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    The other workers, who were Muslim, objected to Bibi touching the bowl, and she might even have taken a sip from it.

    So cooties is a hanging offense in Pakistan?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Only kaffir cooties.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        “”…Bibi was bringing water to a group of farm workers in her village.”

        Get your own fucking water then, assholes.

        (Like PCC, I wouldn’t last long there.)

      • a-non
        Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        If I understand right, this issue of touch and ritual cleanliness is a strongly hindu (or at least pre-islamic) feature that survived in pakistan. (Esp. of food, and utensils, and water — lots of Indian villages still must have two wells, so that the dalits don’t poison the caste hindus.)

        I don’t think this is something native to Islam, and I don’t think such rules apply in most islamic countries.

        Which I say not to excuse any of this, of course, but just to mock the enforcers of religious diktat for having picked up miscellaneous superstitions from the pagans they so hate. Or rather, kept them from their ancestors.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 1, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

          Yes, they seem to have managed to combine the worst of both religions.

          cr

  4. Colin
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Wow, what a cesspool of ignorance. Another shining example of how religion turns the mind to stone.

  5. another fred
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    It is not possible to reason somebody out of something they were not reasoned into.

    I guess political pressure had some effect in this case, and I’m glad for her, but this does not ameliorate my expectations.

  6. Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Insulting the prophet is a crime in Europe too.

    • chewy
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      I keep waiting for the SJW movement in the US to get around to tearing down statues of the slaveholder Mohammed … oh, wait….

    • Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      No, it’s not. Charlie Hebdo tells us that much. You can be as gratuitously offensive about God as your heart desires. You might not find a respectable platform for your views, but that’s another matter.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        I assume KB is referring to the European Court of Human Rights verdict upholding the fine imposed on an Austrian woman for insulting the prophet Muhammad, discussed in this space here.

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Fifty-six pages to say that the witnesses can’t be trusted? They ought to arrest that Qadri for incitement to disaffection for encouraging the army to mutiny.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Pakistan has The Bomb (thanks to the perfidy of A.Q. Khan), as does its contiguous mortal enemy India. Pakistan also has an intelligence service, the ISI, widely suspected of being infiltrated by radical Islamists, and has a rugged northwestern tribal region over which its central government has little control.

    All of this, it seems to me, ought to be of more concern to the rest of the world than it appears to be.

    • mikeyc
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      You think!? I don’t know about the rest of you but that nutjob in the NK doesn’t worry anywhere near as much as these people; not only do they actually have them and the missiles to deliver them, they are overrun by a murderously insane cult.

    • Posted November 2, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Especially considering they are considered a US ally …

  9. Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I’m definitely canceling that vacation to Pakistan.

  10. Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    What’s with the pre-mod of comments?

    • Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      If you had any acquaintance with this site, you’ll know that all first-time commenters have to have their first comment approved. After that it’s automatic. But not for you, pal, because I see you’ve already made a comment insulting a commenter. Read the Roolz and MAYBE you’ll be allowed to post here. Try making your comment again with civility.

      BTW, all your comments will be moderated for the time being.

  11. Mike Cracraft
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Ah..the religion of peace at work again.

  12. boggy
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Where will this poor woman be safe?
    She would not survive 5 minutes in Pakistan so will have to be relocated. Muslim crazies are found in all countries so perhaps N Korea is the best place for her. Joke, but any ideas as to where she might be safe?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      We USians will take those yearning to breathe free, even the wretched refuse from others’ teeming shore — so says a French émigré in New York harbor.

      • Posted November 1, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        But that she could turn her gaze to the Mexican border.

        /@

        • Diane G
          Posted November 2, 2018 at 1:27 am | Permalink

          Speaking of which…Trump has apparently declared that “Rocks Thrown By Migrants At Border Will Be Considered ‘A Firearm'”

    • Posted November 12, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      We in Bulgaria have few Muslim crazies, though we have about 10% Muslims. (Our Muslims are an old-settled European population, not recent Third World newcomers possessing the Truth.) I’d gladly welcome Asia Bibi and her family in my city and my district.

  13. Nell Whiteside
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I keep wondering if blasphemy is not itself blasphemous – it implies a wimpy, non- omnipotent god? Surely a little logic would make this apparent?

    • Mark R.
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that’s some oxymoron: the omnipotent wimp.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that always impressed me, that the Omnipotent would need his earthly little helpers.
        Vaguely reminding us of those French police recruits: “On peut cogner chef?”

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          I mean, His ‘Earthly little helpers’ always appear way to eager.

  14. Charlie Jones
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Of course any Sophisticated Theologian(TM) and various liberal sympathizers would say this is not True Islam(TM). Like they have the right to determine what is True Islam.

    People who claim that episodes like this are not True Islam really need to travel to Pakistan, etc., to set these people straight. If they can’t convince true believers, they have to accept that the religion practiced by true believers is as “true” as it is going to get.

    • mikeyc
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Bringing up a version of “No True Scotsman” fallacy in an argument is always pointless; you will both be wrong. Every time.

    • chewy
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      It is interesting, and highly depressing, to read stories connected to the links in Prof Ceiling Cat’s (pbuh) (emeritus, etc.) post. As I read it, Pakistan law provided for death or life imprisonment for blasphemy. But all 4 schools of Sunni disagreed, and per some national Sharia court declared that only death is permitted; nor can the offender be pardoned.

      Also, a big issue now is whether Asia Bibi is to be permitted to leave the country. Government says it isn’t going to issue the stop order. Who knows, maybe some Sharia court can do it. What a messed up place!

  15. Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this. I almost didn’t read it as I was in a hurry and wasn’t ready to sit down and read something long(ish). I’m glad I did though. As and anthropologist and human, I am always astonished at how group think in religion seems to almost always lead to real evil in the name of one true religion of good. I thought we would be beyond this so long ago and I fear that it could be a fast slide for America into this type of thinking when religion takes charge.

    • Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Although it is unlikely, I think it would be pretty bad if extremist SJWs took charge in America. We might have people on death row charged with first-degree cultural appropriation!

      • Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        I’m afraid this “what if” tangent doesn’t make sense to me. Who are SJWs? Appropriating what culture, and how?

        • Posted November 1, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          SJWs are social justice warriors. They are extremists on the left who are willing to trash people for life who don’t behave according to their idea of political correctness. One of their rules is that people aren’t allowed to enjoy, or borrow ideas from, other cultures, especially cultures of minorities they deem to be historically oppressed.

          I meant this as partly a joke. I doubt they would go so far as to condemn violators to death but, who knows? Absolute power, which they’ll never get, corrupts!

          • Posted November 1, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            So just a theoretical straw man, not someone or some culture in particular; got it!

          • Lee
            Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

            The slippery slope fallacy seems endemic in the SJWs’ reasoning about cultural appropriation- “If you wear your hair in cornrows, you are JUST THIS CLOSE TO LYNCHING BLACKS”. Or something like that.

            I would be much happier if they would focus on victimhood appropriation. Students used to protest the real injustices in the real world; now they just use them to highlight how seriously damaged they themselves are, having a certain skin color, gender orientation or ethnic heritage. In a nation where many strive for justice and fairness, victimhood is powerful, and the temptation to claim victim status for all the unearned privileges it brings is strong, particularly in the Academy.

            • Colin
              Posted November 1, 2018 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

              I haven’t read it, but there’s a book called “The Rise of Victimhood Culture” which looks interesting.

            • Posted November 2, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

              I agree. What happened to “black pride”?

            • Posted November 12, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

              Wow! The Klansmen who used to lynch blacks must have had award-winning cornrows!

    • another fred
      Posted November 1, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      “I thought we would be beyond this so long ago and I fear that it could be a fast slide for America into this type of thinking when religion takes charge.”

      I think you have the causality reversed. People return to traditional mores when they perceive danger just like a squirrel that has crossed a road will dash back towards home, often to die under the wheels of a car, when it senses danger in the approaching car.

      It is just in the nature of animals.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Re: “steeped in hatred, ignorance, and faith”

    In particular ignorance of the wise tradition of “presumption of innocence” a guiding principle of both Justinian code and English common law.

    As for Gray and Illing “religion fulfills various essential human needs”, yes it does, but on many occasions it hijacks human needs, acting parasitically not symbiotically.

  17. Jeff Morgan
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Just look at all those angry women in that video.

    • Posted November 1, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      It always shocks and disturbs me to hear the liberal media in the US compulsively say “Trump made another misogynistic tweet today, so he will lose women voters.” What about men voters? And what about women who plan to gain from patriarchy?

      • tomh
        Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Which women are those that plan to gain from patriarchy?

    • Diane G
      Posted November 2, 2018 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      It always annoys me when news organs label any picture of male-only Islamic crowds as simply “Pakistanis” or “Iraqis” or such. I wish they’d add “men,” to draws attention to the fact that half of their population isn’t even present.”

  18. Mark R.
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the anti-drug ads of the 80’s showing a frying egg with the slogan: “This is your brain on drugs.”

    Except in this case, it’s: “This is your brain on religion.”

  19. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    One look at the Pakistani Islamic crowds rioting to demand execution for Asia Bibi, and anyone would be inclined toward a phobia of such groups. Let’s see, what would that phobia be called?

    • Posted November 1, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Mobophobia?

      /@

      • Posted November 1, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        Since the mob is comprised of rabid Islamic
        believers, couldn’t we change the meaning of Islamiphobia to reference this group doing the fear/hate? The hater, not the hatee? If not, maybe this mob is Christianphobic?

    • Posted November 12, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Islamophobia. Here, “phobia” means “justified fear”.

  20. Posted November 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    😧

  21. pablo
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Oddly, not a peep about this from the Friendly Atheist. And by oddly I mean completely expected.

    • Diane G
      Posted November 2, 2018 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      Oh, dear, I haven’t been following him for years. I don’t like what your comment implies! Sob.

    • Posted November 12, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Who lied to him that he is friendly?

  22. Zetopan
    Posted November 5, 2018 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    “Even Republicans, whipped up to a frenzy by our own loony “President,” don’t call for death in this way”

    Excepting that there are *some* republicans who actually do call for death this way.

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2018/10/25/howard-browne-wants-rbg-shot-for-treason/

    https://www.sltrib.com/news/nation-world/2018/04/06/idaho-gop-candidate-supports-death-penalty-to-stop-abortions/

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/gop-senator-jokes-about-praying-for-obamas-death

    etc.

  23. Posted November 12, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this post. Good news! Maybe reform of Muslim societies will come from within, as did reform of Communist societies.

  24. Posted December 16, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Hey, I know this happened in Pakistan and I’m sorry for it. I live in Pakistan and I’m a Muslim, but here’s a thing, more than half the Muslims are not like what the media “only” shows. I have Christian friends and by God, I love her and her family, I spent my first ever Christmas with her, I’ve eaten with her more than thousand times. Even the Quran does not say anything against Christians, instead, it tells is to respect people of all faiths. It’s only that the people probably those islamic parties are super crazy. I’m so sorry for the bad view you all have of Pakistan. I hope you once come to pakistan and see the situation here yourself. All the love to you.❤️

    • Posted December 16, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Are you nuts? They’d kill me. This blog has already been banned in Pakistan by your own government, Pakistanis rioted over the release from prison of Asia Bibi, you have a blasphemy law that punishes people with death,
      As for the Quran not criticizing Christians (“infidels”), you must be blind. Here are some quotes:

      “This Book is not to be doubted…. As for the unbelievers, it is the same whether or not you forewarn them; they will not have faith. God has set a seal upon their hearts and ears; their sight is dimmed and grievous punishment awaits them.” Quran 2:1/2:6-2:10

      “God’s curse be upon the infidels! Evil is that for which they have bartered away their souls. To deny God’s own revelation, grudging that He should reveal His bounty to whom He chooses from among His servants! They have incurred God’s most inexorable wrath. An ignominious punishment awaits the unbelievers.” Quran 2:89-2:90

      “Lord…Give us victory over the unbelievers.” Quran 2:286

      “Lord…give us victory over the unbelievers.” Quran 3:147

      “I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers.” Quran 8:12

      “Let not the unbelievers think they will ever get away. They have not the power so to do. Muster against them all the men and cavalry at your command, so that you may strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy…” Quran 8:59-60

      “When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them.” Quran 9:5

      “Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate.” Quran 9:73

      “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that God is with the righteous.” Quran 9:123

      “Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. They are friends with one another…” Quran 5:51

      “He that chooses a religion over Islam, it will not be accepted from him and in the world to come he will be one of the lost.” Quran 3:85

      “Let not believers make friends with infidels in preference to the faithful – he that does this has nothing to hope for from Good – except in self-defense. God admonishes you to fear Him: for to God shall all return.” Quran 3:28

      “Garments of fire have been prepared for the unbelievers. Scalding water shall be poured upon their heads, melting their skins and that which is in their bellies. They shall be lashed with rods of iron.

      “Whenever, in their anguish, they try to escape from Hell, back they shall be dragged, and will be told: ‘Taste the torment of the Conflagration!’” Quran 22:19-20

      “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” Quran 48:29

      “Those that deny Our revelations We will burn in fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed than We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste the scourge. God is mighty and wise.” Quran 4:56

      “Believers, know that the idolaters [non-Muslims] are unclean. Let them not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year is ended.” Quran 9:28

      “The unbelievers among the People of the Book [Bible] and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures.” Quran 98:6

      If you think things are fine in your country, have the guts to publish your real name and city here. Ten to one you won’t.


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