Asia Bibi is free at last

As I’ve reported before (see here, here, here, and here), Asia Bibi (real name Aasiya Noreen) was a Pakistani Christian convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. After eight years on death row (and the assassination of several politicians who supported her innocence), Bibi was freed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court.  Although she was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad after an altercation in her village, the Court found those accusations unreliable.

But there was a hitch. As I wrote in November:

In the meantime, Noreen hasn’t been allowed to leave the country, and has gone into hiding. Distressingly, the Supreme Court is keeping her in Pakistan because they are weighing an appeal from Pakistan’s odious Tehreek-e-Labaaik party, a party dedicated solely to punishing blasphemy and establishing sharia law. But if the Court deemed the charges against Bibi insupportable, there’s no reason to force her to stay in Pakistan. Bibi’s lawyer has fled to the Netherlands, and her husband has pleaded to Canada, Italy, the US, the UK, and the Netherlands to grant her asylum.

There was more bad behavior around the question of who would give her asylum. As an article in Quillette and other sources confirmed, she had requested asylum in the UK, but they refused to consider it for fear of unrest among Muslims in the UK as well as attacks on British diplomats in Pakistan. That’s simply reprehensible, and some readers didn’t believe it, but documents support the cowardice of the British government in this respect. Every democratic country who has freedom of religion should be willing to take her in.

Well, the good news is that, according to this article from the January 29 BBC site(click on screenshot), the appeal from the Tehreek-e-Labaaik party was rejected, and Bibi is now completely free. If she’s not found and killed by Pakistani extremists before she leaves the country (and you shouldn’t underestimate the desire of many to do away with Bibi), she’ll be free to find asylum in another land.

  From the BBC report:

Asia Bibi is being kept by authorities at a secret location in Islamabad.

The ruling clears the way for her to leave Pakistan, though it is not clear when that will happen and where she will go. She has been offered asylum by a number of countries, and some unconfirmed reports say several members of her family may already be abroad.

Meanwhile, the court ruling will test the resolve of the far right Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan group, which has conducted a violent anti-blasphemy campaign in the past, though many of its leaders have been under arrest since October when the court first acquitted Asia Bibi.

In a concerted move to forestall public unrest, Pakistani electronic media is underplaying the story.

Many observers believe the ruling will revive the practice of applying standard legal tests of criminal procedure while adjudicating blasphemy cases, as they had increasingly become hostage to vigilante justice by extremists.

I’m guessing she’ll wind up in Canada, which recently took in a Saudi refugee who fled the oppression of her country. That would be lovely, but it’s to the shame of the US and UK that they didn’t offer her immediate asylum. That would have been a no-brainer, but governments are cowed by the threat of Muslim unrest. One wouldn’t think that having a lot of Muslim immigrants in a Western country would make it hard to take in a Muslim refugee, but that’s one of the dangers of the tenacity with which many such immigrants cling to the tenets of their faith.

18 Comments

  1. Andrew
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Here is a Feature story by the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/resources/idt-sh/Asia_Bibi

    • nwalsh
      Posted February 2, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Most interesting article. They sure take their superstition seriously don’t they?

      • Andrew
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        This is the same kind of thinking that killed writers at Charlie Hebdoh and forced Salman Rusdie into hiding. Sadly, some western liberals support the idea that Islam should be exempt from criticism or satire because muslims are a minority and we need to protect “religious feelings”. We have been criticising christianity for hundreds of years but islam should get a free pass? It’s such small minded and regressive thinking. Scary and horrible stories like this, where millions of muslims agree that Asia Bibi should be hung, convince me that there is no such thing as “islamophobia”.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    That coward we call a president would not think of it without first getting permission from MBS.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 2, 2019 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      And taking Pakistan’s balance of trade with the US into account.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Damn, sometimes justice rolls down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

    Better late than never.

  4. Posted February 2, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I am very glad for this, and bravo to the countries that offered asylum!

  5. BJ
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve followed this story closely and am overjoyed by the result, but, as you said, this isn’t over yet. She now needs to get out of the country safely. I hope the UK is ashamed and that shame forces them to offer her asylum as soon as possible.

  6. Jenny Haniver
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Alhamdulillah!

  7. Steve Pollard
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I too am delighted at this result, and I hope she gets out to a safe haven as soon as possible. And well done the Lahore High Court: according to the BBC report posted by Andrew above, they quoted Shakespeare in their judgment. Western culture is still alive in parts of Pakistan!

    And I also rather wish the UK had offered Aasiya Noreen asylum; their excuse for not doing so is pathetic. But it has to be said that she has absolutely no connection with this country at all; and if we offered her asylum (I can imagine Ministers and officials arguing) we would come under pressure to do so for pretty well anybody. Not very creditable; but given the state of this country at the moment, sort of understandable.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      What is their excuse? I still haven’t seen any documents or statements from the British government either offering or denying asylum to her or giving any reasons.

  8. Daniel
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    She is a Christian not a Muslim.

  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    This is great news. I hope she’s finally able to live her life as she chooses.

    However, I worry about Islamist extremists. I feel they’re not likely to forgive her for winning (as if there’s anything to forgive!) and they’ll still be determined to track her down and kill her.

    If your religion requires threats of violence to maintain its adherents, there’s something wrong with it. (Yes, I know Bibi is a Christian, but all targets seem to be valid to extremists.)

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes, when hate is a “virtue,” there are many available targets.

  10. sang1ee
    Posted February 2, 2019 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like she and her children may have already emigrated to Canada, although firm confirmation can’t be found. This should be a point of high pride for our country, especially after doing everything to save the ex-Muslim Saudi girl very recently.

    • Martin Levin
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      Sub

  11. RPGNo1
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    At least the judges have balls, while the Pakistani government and many other politicians kneeled down before Islamist extremists.

  12. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    From the BBC report:

    The ruling clears the way for her to leave Pakistan, though it is not clear when that will happen and where she will go.

    While she is in the country, she is in considerable danger because she has embarrassed people in positions of power. As are her family. And friends. And lawyers.


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