After spending eight years in prison on death row in Pakistan on a trumped up charge of blaspheming Islam’s supposed prophet Muhammad, the Christian woman Asia Bibi was acquitted.
Mohammad Shafiq Amini, the acting chief of the hardline Tehreek-i-Labaik party, sent a video message to followers branding the court’s dismissal of the appeal against Bibi’s acquittal as ‘cruel and unjust’ and calling for mass protests.
Bibi is supposedly being kept in a safe place in Islamabad. Meanwhile furious extremists have called for nationwide rallies which threaten to escalate into civil unrest.
Bibi will not be safe until escapes from Pakistan, and even then she will remain under the threat of retribution from Muslims wherever she lives.
Hafiz Ehtisham Ahmed, an Islamist activist linked to the extremist Red Mosque in Islamabad, said Mrs Bibi may not be safe wherever she goes.
‘She deserves to be murdered according to Sharia’, he said. ‘If she goes abroad, don’t Muslims live there? If she goes out of Pakistan…anybody can kill her there.’
Asia Bibi has lost almost a decade of her life due to religious bigotry for a supposed ‘crime’ she didn’t commit. That this situation has occurred and gone on for so long is a matter of deep shame for Pakistan.
The UK does not escape it’s share of shame either. When approaches were made to grant Bibi’s safety in the UK, the May government denied her asylum out of fear of a violent reaction from Britain’s growing Muslim community.
This is in contrast to several instances of clerics holding extremist views on matters such as blasphemy being allowed into Britain and given a platform to spew their hatred to impressionable congregants in British mosques. Britain has even admitted some, such as Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri, who have been banned in their home countries for being too incendiary.
Perhaps it is just as well for Asia Bibi to be refused asylum in the UK, it is doubtful that we could guarantee her safety.
In the meantime, where is she? In a safe location in Pakistan, or perhaps already secreted out of the country. We don’t know. But whatever her location it is clear that Asia Bibi, although completely innocent, will never have another day free of fear.