Islam's willing executioners: The Asia Bibi travesty

The story of Asia Bibi leads to some tough questions which should make honest and intelligent readers reflect on the state of our mainstream discourse about Islam.

Rafael Castro, | updated: 09:30

Rafael Castro
Rafael Castro
INN:RF

After Captain Alfred Dreyfus was found guilty on trumped-up charges in 1894, France was torn asunder. Liberal and secularist Dreyfusards led by the novelist Émile Zola thundered against the blatant abuse of justice behind the Jewish captain’s conviction. The Dreyfus Case seared the conscience of the French nation for many decades.

In 1982, after Christian phalangists massacred hundreds of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila, 400,000 Jews protested in Tel-Aviv to demand an immediate inquiry into the Israeli army’s involvement in the massacre.

These episodes illustrate the desirable sense of justice and civic responsibility which characterize Christian culture in times of peace and Jewish culture even in times of war. Is this sense of justice and civic responsibility universal? Progressive intellectuals claim so and assert that values are evenly spread across all religions and all cultures. Asia Bibi thinks otherwise.  

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman who has languished in jail for over 8 years. Her crime was twofold: She tried to drink water from the village well reserved for Muslims; and when she was stopped a spat ensued. She was thereafter charged with blasphemy against the Prophet of Islam.

In Pakistan, blasphemy against God is a serious matter, though not a capital crime. But “blasphemy against Mohammed" is a capital crime. As such Asia Bibi in 2010 was convicted and condemned to be hanged. Since then her case has ploughed through all the echelons of the Pakistani judicial system, as international pressure mounted to secure her release.

This month her case was reviewed by the supreme court of Pakistan. She was acquitted. It is not clear whether her acquittal was bought by Western promises of international aid or whether the presiding judges acted autonomously. What is clear is that her acquittal was short-lived.

Hundreds of thousands of Islamists went on a rampage blocking roads, setting tires on fire and destroying private property in Pakistan’s main cities to protest Asia Bibi’s acquittal. The Pakistani armed forces did not intervene. The former-playboy-now-pious President of Pakistan Imran Khan placated the angry masses vowing to have Asia Bibi’s case “reviewed” while forbidding her from travelling abroad to a safe haven.


Asia Bibi is one of the millions of non-Muslims and gays, women and freethinkers who suffer the consequences of Islamic jurisprudence.
Asia Bibi is one of the millions of non-Muslims and gays, women and freethinkers who suffer the consequences of Islamic jurisprudence. The barbarism of sharia has been highlighted elsewhere, so I would not like to dwell on it. Instead I would like to ask some tough questions which should make honest and intelligent readers reflect on the state of our mainstream discourse about Islam.

Since 9/11 we have been permanently reminded by mainstream media that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are moderate and peace-loving; that the phenomenon of “radical Islam” is marginal; and that “authentic” Islam preaches justice, peace and religious tolerance.

Undoubtedly there are millions of “moderate” and “peace-loving” Muslims. The question is why are they AWOL when they are most needed? If 100,000 Muslims had marched in London and Paris to protest Asia Bibi’s plight, the Pakistani government would have listened, just like Western governments listen when hundreds of thousands of Muslims march in Europe to demand that Israel surrender to Hamas.

I have scoured the web to see if in any Western capital, in front of any Pakistani consulate, any Islamic organization held a candlelight vigil on behalf of Asia Bibi. Zero results. Any hopes that the human rights champion Linda Sarsour would speak up for Asia were also dashed, as were analogous expectations from Ilhan Omar and Sadiq Khan. Indeed, a pattern seems to emerge. But what pattern?

The BBC website reassured us on the 13th of November that "British Imams join calls for UK to give asylum” to Asia Bibi. The BBC was too embarrassed to point out that out of over 1700 imams in the UK only three imams joined these calls: Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Dr Usama Hasan. Three imams out of 1700 imams is 0.2% of the Islamic pastoral community. In other words, 99.8% of British imams have failed to act to save Asia Bibi from rotting in jail.

I don’t think it is unfair to assert that Islamic communities worldwide lack all moral leadership. In fact, one might plausibly argue that they are morally bankrupt. And yet, it is our duty to remember the Pakistani hero Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who in 2011 was gunned down by his own bodyguard for speaking out in favor of Asia Bibi. Hundreds of people attended his funeral. Taseer’s murderer Mumtaz Qadri was executed for the crime. Mumtaz Qadri's funeral was attended by over 100,000 people.

Intellectuals who argue that all cultures and all religions are equal owe us an explanation. Namely, an explanation as to why there are so few Muslim Dreyfusards in both Islamic and non-Islamic societies and why the streets and squares to which Jews thronged to demand justice for their enemy, are stormed by followers of Mohammed demanding the hanging of Asia Bibi – the innocent mother of two children.


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