In 2009, a Christian woman named Aasiya Noreen (a.k.a. Asia Bibi) got into a fight with Muslim co-workers over shared water — they said it was unclean because Noreen was Christian. During the fight, Bibi allegedly said she would not covert to Islam and that Muhammad was no prophet, a statement her co-workers took as an insult to their faith. It didn’t take long before her supposed act of blasphemy resulted in a death sentence from a Pakistani judge. That extreme ruling was upheld by an appeals court in 2014.
There aren’t many legal cases that bring together the Christian Right, the Catholic Church, and advocates for church/state separation, but this was one of them. Evangelicals didn’t want a Christian woman executed for not being Muslim. Pope Benedict XVI asked the Pakistani government for mercy. And both the death penalty and blasphemy laws are condemned by most liberals.
Really, the only people who wanted her to die were extremist Muslims who take offense to damn near everything and demand that offenders pay the ultimate price. One extremist even murdered Punjabi governor Salmaan Taseer who had called for a repeal of the blasphemy laws and defended Bibi. (The assassin was later executed for his crime.)
In October, however, there was some welcome news when the Pakistani Supreme Court ruled to overturn Bibi’s conviction. The judges very bluntly explains that the allegations against her were pure fiction. She was finally free… except she really wasn’t. Where was she going to go? If she made a public appearance, no doubt extremists were going to strike. She’s essentially been in hiding for months.
Today, we got some more welcome news.
After the Supreme Court’s verdict in October, an extremist Muslim group filed an appeal (which they are allowed to do), but the Court rejected that appeal today, saying there was no reason to rethink their earlier ruling:
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa stood by the court’s original verdict saying nothing in the petition cast doubt on the validity of the original verdict, which slammed the conflicting testimony against Bibi.
“You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?” he said, according to media reports. “Such lies were told that one statement doesn’t match with another.”
“The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow,” he added. “The beauty of a Muslim community is that non-Muslims are taken care of.”
With that decision, Bibi is expected to leave Pakistan and take up residence in Canada. She’ll be reunited with her daughters who were granted asylum earlier.
After eight years of living in constant fear of being executed, she will be free. And she’ll live somewhere where religious freedom is taken seriously.
The Court deserves a lot of credit for their courageous decision. It’s up to politicians to have the same courage and get rid of the Medieval blasphemy laws altogether. No one should have to suffer as she did.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Large portions of this article were published earlier)