Asia Bibi Avoided Execution for Blasphemy, but Life Remains Hard in Her New Home July 23, 2021

Asia Bibi Avoided Execution for Blasphemy, but Life Remains Hard in Her New Home

It’s been a long while since we’ve posted about Asia Bibi, but there’s an update you’re going to want to hear about.

Here’s some background in case you’ve forgotten: In 2009, Bibi, a Christian woman living in Pakistan, got into a fight with Muslim co-workers over shared water — they said it was unclean because Bibi 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 Islamic extremists. One of them even murdered Punjabi governor Salmaan Taseer after he had called for a repeal of the blasphemy laws and defended Bibi. (The assassin was later executed for his crime.)

But in 2018, there was a surprising turn of events. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled to overturn Bibi’s conviction. The judges very bluntly explained that the allegations against her were pure fiction. One Muslim group appealed the decision (which they were allowed to do), but the Court rejected that appeal in 2019, saying there was no reason to rethink their earlier ruling.

Bibi 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 was thankfully allowed to leave Pakistan and take up residence in Canada, where she was reunited with her daughters who had been granted asylum earlier.

That’s the last time we really heard much about her. It’s been more than two years since her move to Canada… so how is she doing?

The Globe and Mail caught up with her, and unfortunately, it’s not great news. While she’s certainly safer in Canada, she’s constantly living in fear. There are bright spots — you can see her smile below while talking about her love of gardening — but those seem to be anomalies.

I haven’t been able to make any friends, and I don’t really want to yet,” Ms. Bibi says. “When you become friends with someone, then lots of things about your life come out, and I’m not ready to share that with people.”

It’s her children, she says, who have faced the biggest losses throughout this ordeal, both in terms of trauma and missed opportunities. “My kids’ future has been destroyed,” Ms. Bibi says, looking at her two daughters, Esham and Esha, now in their 20s.

The family experienced constant harassment, and her husband couldn’t work, which meant they were unable to pay for their daughters to attend school.

More than anything, Bibi is upset she never received a proper education. But as she tries to make a new home in a foreign country, Pakistan still has its blasphemy laws and it was used to prosecute more than 200 people last year alone.

(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Lorne for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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