Time running short to save Asia Bibi: My Word
May 13, 2015 - By Shahzad Ahmed
It was a scorching hot day in the summer of 2009, when Asia Bibi, a 45-year old Christian field worker, drank from a bucket of water to quench her thirst. But her female Muslim co-workers refused to drink from the bucket solely because, Bibi, a Christian, had touched it. An argument ensued and the result was Bibi being prosecuted and convicted of the death penalty.
Her crime? Her co-workers accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Bibi, a mother of five, was prosecuted under Pakistan's blasphemy law. She denied the allegations, yet in October 2014, the High Court of the city of Lahore upheld the judgment. Her lawyer appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Meanwhile, Bibi awaits her fate in jail.
Pakistan is the most frequent enforcer of the blasphemy law. To make matters worse, the defendant can be convicted of the crime of blasphemy without any evidence or witnesses.
Pakistan's blasphemy law is contrary to Islam. Chapter 20, verse 130 of the Quran reads, "Therefore be patient with what they say, and celebrate (constantly) the praises of thy Lord, before the rising of the sun, and before its setting; yea, celebrate them for part of the hours of the night, and at the sides of the day: that thou mayest have (spiritual) joy."
Although Prophet Muhammad, and the prophets before him, faced severe rebuke and rejection, they did not call for punishment of their opponents. Rather, they practiced tolerance and forgiveness. In essence, faith is glorified, not by curbing its critics, but rather by practicing tolerance of its critics.
Even the local Muslim community has condemned the blasphemy laws. Imam Tariq Rasheed of the Islamic Center of Orlando recited the above verse in his sermons and condemned the blasphemy law. The Association of Pakistani Americans of Central Florida has also condemned this brutal practice.
As members of the world community, it is incumbent upon us to exhort the governments of the United States and Pakistan to seek relief for Bibi before it is too late. To support this cause, contact the U.S. Embassy (202) 647-4000 and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC at (202) 243-6500. Also visit our page at facebook.com/hrdefenders.
Shahzad Ahmed is an immigration and human-rights lawyer and partner at NeJame Law in Orlando.
Source: Orlando Sentinel