Sunday, November 4, 2018
Blasphemy Laws and Asia Bibi
First understand that Pakistan included laws against "blasphemy" in its legal code when it was partitioned off from India, and became its own country, in 1947. Its first such law defined "blasphemy" as: "Uttering of any word or making any sound or making any gesture or placing of any object in the sight with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person" and had a penalty of one year in prison, or a fine, or both. Note how similar this is to "Hate Speech" laws in the US and other Western countries.
At the time, the population of Pakistan was 85% Muslim and 15% everything else: Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish. Over the next several decades, the Muslim majority demanded more and more elaborate blasphemy laws, which somehow were always enforced on the minority-religion populations. Those minority-religion populations have been shrinking ever since. The Jews were the first to see the handwriting on the wall and move out; today their descendants live in the U.S., Canada, Israel and India, and there are just 745 Jewish families left in Pakistan. Buddhists went next; there are fewer than 1900 of them left in the country. The Hindus fared better, probably because of India right next door. HIndus comprise nearly 2% of the population, which makes Hinduism the 2nd largest religion in Pakistan. However, at least 5000 Hindus per year emigrate to India -- frankly to avoid legal discrimination and harassment from the Muslims.
In the past decade or so the blatantly Muslim government of Pakistan has turned on the Christians, who make up the third-largest religion in the country. In 2005 there were 2.5 million Christians, or 1.6% of the total population. Then the "blasphemy" laws changed again, making "any insult against the Prophet" punishable by death. Assorted Muslims began using the "blasphemy" laws quite freely -- against Christians -- as excuse to swindle property, shut down business rivals, or excuses to riot and kill Christians in increasingly large lots.
Now, for the past 20 years or so, the Pakistan govt. has divided pretty evenly between three agendas: the Jihadists, who side with the Taliban and want to hurry up the Jihadist takeover of the world; the pro-western faction, which sees better rewards and more money in siding with the western democracies; and the opportunists, who play off one side against the other for the money. This explains why Pakistan didn't complain too much about the US sending troops into Pakistan to take out Osama Bin Laden, as well as why the govt. was sheltering Bin Laden in the first place.
So let's look back to June, 2009. A group of women -- one Christian, Asia Bibi, and the rest Muslim -- were harvesting fruit when, according to the BBC,a row broke out over a bucket of water. "The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean. Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response. She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation."
She then spent the next 9 years in prison, going through appeals against the death penalty. Finally her appeal reached the Pakistani Supreme Court.