I decided to post this editorial here to 1) show one clear example of MANY Muslims and other Journalists in Pakistan who've been speaking out against Aasia Bibi's verdict as well as 2) an important piece with truth/wisdom for us ALL: here
The daughters of Aasia Bibi hold a photo of their mother outside their residence in Ittanwalai, Pakistan, Nov. 13. Reuters
See Dec. 14th and other Updates below...
Because there's so much injustice the US has rained down on the world, including with the recent sentencing of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years and she's now in Texas - an horrific prison with a history of abusing women - I hesitate to bring up another woman's heart-wrenching case in another land. (Since we don't know how to get the motes out of our own eyes)...but we are ONE HUMANITY...and are ALL needed to stand against the death penalty and a harsh sentence to life behind bars no matter what. What should it matter to us whether our stand is for a Muslim woman or a Christian one no matter our own persuasian? In PAKISTAN, Christians, Muslims and NGOs are mobilizing for Asia Bibi...Increasingly, people are speaking out against the blasphemy law as a tool for personal vendettas and fodder for extremism. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions in favor of Asia Bibi's life. Still she and her family wait, wondering. Catholic and Protestant leaders as well as Muslim scholars and non-governmental organizations have slammed a court’s decision to impose the death sentence on this Christian women convicted on blasphemy charges. She is the first woman sentenced to death for such an offense, and many Pakistanis are pressuring the government to change or repeal the country’s “obscene” blasphemy legislation. (This and following intro is from Asia News)
Chair Anis Haroon
Just as activists, scholars and many others in America speak out when it comes to the death penalty, so do many in Pakistan. Among them, the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Anis Haroon said the commission was concerned about Aasia Bibi’s security. She said minorities were not harming the interests of the country. Former chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology Dr Khalid Masood said there was ‘religious illiteracy’ even among the literates. He said nowhere in the Holy Quran there is mention of death sentence for those committing blasphemous acts.
Aasia Bibi was arrested in the village of Ittanwalai under Section 295 C. Judge Naveed Iqbal imposed the death sentence almost year after the offence took place.
Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, 51, told AsiaNews that he would appeal her sentence, which must be upheld by the Lahore high court, the highest tribunal in Punjab before it can be carried out. Asia and Ashiq have two sons and three daughters.
"Aasia is innocent, the villagers are taking out a personal revenge", Sadiq Masih a close relative told AsiaNews. In the meantime, Life for All has launched a nationwide ‘Save Bibi’ campaign. In a week, it got 76,000 signatures. Another NGO, Peace Pakistan, has reached 51,000 signatures.
...Muhammad Hafiz, an Islamic scholar, spoke to AsiaNews about it: “The death sentence of Asia Bibi came as a shock to me” because “Islam teaches us to protect religious minorities,” he said.
The following article is by Noel Irwin Hentschel who is extensively involved in Interfaith work as a Fransciscan and has spent time in area of Asia Bibi's family:
Pakistan: The Shame and the Promise
The world is shocked by the death sentence imposed in Pakistan on Aasia Bibi, a young Christian mother of five, imprisoned under the country's controversial blasphemy statute. This inhumane act paradoxically occurred while devout Muslims fulfilled their Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca where they prayed for Allah's mercy. This punishment is contrary to Islamic teachings on justice.
How can the benevolent act of sharing water, the source of life, undertaken by this Pakistani Christian woman toward her Pakistani Muslim co-worker lead to a death sentence? The co-worker refused to accept water drawn from the same barrel as a non-Muslim sparking a callous and controversial case.
Court documents indicate that the encounter provoked two unmarried women to accuse Bibi of making an offensive remark about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Bibi denies this allegation testifying that she never defiled the Prophet or commented against Islam. She maintains her innocence but asked forgiveness and after already serving 15 months in prison received an astounding response by the judge who condemned her to be executed. Leaving one to ponder, where is Islamic justice?
This harsh Blasphemy Law, forced upon Pakistan by former President Zia ul Haq, was one of the first examples by extremists in Pakistan to manipulate and exploit Islam for their own political gain. In Zia's case, it was consolidation of power. Later his supporter Nawaz Sharif, known for ordering the Pakistan nuclear tests in 1998, now heading the hardliner Pakistan Muslim League PML(N), continued the politicization of Islam. Equally disturbing are the actions of former self installed President, Pervez Musharraf, who defends the cruel Hadood ordinances that force women to produce four witnesses when they are raped or be arrested for adultery.
This pattern of perversion of Islamic principles in Pakistan now rivets the world's attention as it did when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated three years ago. Bibi and her family fear that she will be murdered as well while waiting for justice to be served. The death sentence against Asia Bibi for blasphemy is not only directed against her and her family, but in a broader sense against all of Pakistan, a nation whose international reputation hangs by a thread.
The Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan are antithetical to the protections to minorities guaranteed in Pakistan's Constitution and the very concept of religious freedom on which Pakistan was founded in 1947. A study by the National Commission for Justice and Peace reports that a total of 964 people have been charged under this ordinance: 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmedis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 of other religions. Thirty-two people charged with blasphemy have been murdered through extra-judicial killings. In the case of Asia Bibi, the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court said, "the treatment meted out to the woman was an insult to humanity."
Fortunately the current elected President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has taken a forthright stand, reiterating "Pakistan is a nation of many religions and all Pakistanis, no matter what their faith, are equal under the law." Zardari recently indicated that if his action is necessary, he "will grant clemency to Bibi to insure that she is neither incarcerated nor harmed." However, Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) does not have the necessary votes in Parliament to repeal these dysfunctional blasphemy statutes and there is pressure for him to acquiesce to radical extremist factions. It is wrong and unjust that Nawaz Sharif, head of the second largest party in Pakistan, refuses to join with Zardari to change this discriminatory law.
It is unacceptable that billions of dollars of US economic aid are flowing to a nation that is persecuting minorities. The blasphemy edicts send a message to the international business community that Pakistan is an unwelcome place to invest and to do business. The blasphemy laws do not only undermine justice and decency in Pakistan, but subverts Pakistan's place in the community of nations. My visits to Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi, working with people of Pakistan from various fields, validates the potential promise of Pakistan, but only if these unjust and malevolent laws are repealed.
The Holy Qur'ān demands that Muslims bring about justice with benevolence (ihsān), "Surely God enjoins justice and doing good to others (ihsān) (16:90)." According to Mohammad Hashim Kamali, author of Foundations of Islam: Shari'ah Law "Justice must be attempted in the spirit of ihsān, that is, even when it is not demanded by anyone; the attempt should be in equity and good faith which would gain the pleasure of God." The responsibility of justice by Muslims to non-Muslims is found in Ibn al-Qayyim's teachings in Al-Turuq al-Hukmiyah, "Any path that leads to justice and fairness is an integral part of the religion and can never be contrary to it." Muslims towards non-Muslims are directed in the Qur'ān to act justly with benevolence, "God forbids you not to do good and be just. God loves those who have strived for justice (60:8)."
My lifework is to advance economic opportunities and support for those in need with initiatives that bring people of all religions together for peace. Inspired and mentored by Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity; I travel to far regions of the world supporting their ministry of universal love. As a mother, it was heart wrenching seeing the tears of sorrow on Bibi's 12-year-old daughter, Isham Masih and to hear this child's agonizing pleas for her mother's life...
READ MORE here
14 December UPDATE
Research Brief Pakistan's Jinnah Institute here and another case brought up on the online institute site here
Amnesty International Report/OPed here
2nd December 2010 UPDATE:
Like the US, Pakistan fails in some significant ways on rights...Although we are in a tough position to point fingers - the anti-death penalty movement universally brings light and makes neutral our concerns. Petitions are easily available online on behalf of Aasia Bibi and this just in from Human Rights Watch:
From: HRW Press
Sent: Thu 02/12/2010 09:59
To: HRW Press
Subject: Pakistan: Allow Pardon for Blasphemy Victim
For Immediate Release
Pakistan: Allow Pardon for Blasphemy Victim
High Court Overreaches in Barring Presidential Pardon
(New York, December 2, 2010) – A Pakistani court’s order to bar President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a woman sentenced to death for blasphemy contravenes Pakistan’s constitution and should be withdrawn immediately, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Lahore High Court in Punjab province issued an order on November 29, 2010, barring Zardari from exercising his constitutional authority to pardon Aasia Bibi, an illiterate farmhand who had been convicted by the Sheikhupura District Court of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Zardari had ordered a review of the case in mid-November, after domestic and international outrage over the sentence. A ministerial inquiry concluded on November 25 that the district court verdict was legally unsound.
“The Lahore high court has overstepped its constitutional authority by preventing President Zardari from pardoning Aasia Bibi, who was unjustly convicted under a discriminatory law,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The court has blocked Zardari from promptly correcting a cruel wrong and instead has disgraced Pakistan’s judiciary.”
Aasia Bibi was charged under the blasphemy law after a June 2009 altercation with fellow farm workers who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was “unclean” because she was Christian. On November 8, the Sheikhupura District Court found her guilty, ruling that there were “no mitigating circumstances.”
She is the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to capital punishment for blasphemy, though others have been charged and given lesser sentences.
Pakistan’s constitution is unequivocal in providing the president with the power to pardon, Human Rights Watch said. Article 45 of the constitution states that, “The president shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve, and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.”
Prior to the action of the Lahore High Court, senior Pakistani government officials had indicated to Human Rights Watch and to the media that Zardari was likely to use his constitutional prerogative to pardon and free Aasia Bibi.
The court stated in its interim order that any pardon would be “premature” as Aasia Bibi’s appeal of her conviction was pending before the court. Senior Pakistani lawyers, including Asma Jahangir, a prominent human rights advocate and president of the prestigious Supreme Court Bar Association, the country’s most influential forum for lawyers, have publicly criticized the Lahore High Court order.
Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for repeal of the blasphemy law and other discriminatory provisions in Pakistan’s penal code. International and Pakistani human rights organizations have long called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, as section 295-C of the penal code is known, which makes the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy. The law has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks as a consequence of the Aasia Bibi case. In 2009, authorities charged scores of people under the law. Many of them remain in prison.
“Not only do those charged under the blasphemy law suffer persecution, it is evident the ill effects of discriminatory laws are compounded by unsympathetic courts,” Hasan said.
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Pakistan, please visit:
For more information, please contact:
In Lahore, Ali Dayan Hasan (English, Urdu): +92-300-842-5125 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In Jakarta, Elaine Pearson (English): +62-812-8222-3591 (mobile)
In London, Tom Porteous (English): +44-20-7713-2766; or +44-79-8398-4982 (mobile)