Monday, November 29, 2010

A Call to Acton -- Christian Woman Faces Execution in Pakistan

Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi 
Please read this NBC article and forward it to as many people as possible, asking them to send a letter to Pakistan's president and to President Obama, urging their immediate action to save this woman's life. 
There are email addresses and a sample email at the bottom of this post. 

The government of Pakistan, an alleged ally of the U.S. in the War on Terror, has sentenced a mother of 5 to death. Her crime worthy of execution? 

She is accused of speaking poorly about Muhammad, the Founder of Islam.

Aside from the fact that the charge hasn't been proven, this is a grave and glaring violation of basic human rights.

But where is the outrage from worldwide news agencies and human rights groups? Where are the feminists? Where is usual sermon about religious tolerance from our Nobel prize-winning President Obama? We saw a far greater outcry when some backwoods Florida pastor threatened to burn some copies of the Quran!


In early November, in the dusty city of Sheikhupura in Pakistan’s heartland, Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman and mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging under the country’s blasphemy laws.

Her crime? She allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

Almost immediately, the death sentence unleashed international condemnation, and put pressure on Pakistan’s government to overturn the verdict and amend the country’s blasphemy laws – a holdover from a 19th century penal code designed to protect minority religious sects during British colonial times.
The law was radicalized during the 1980’s under the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. He imposed life sentences, even death, for blasphemy to appease the mullahs and legitimize his grip on power.

Pope Benedict XVI appealed for clemency but hard-line Islamic groups have threatened civil war if the government pardons Bibi or attempts to amend the law.

Bibi’s husband, 48-year-old Ashiq Masih, is desperate, convinced radical Islamic groups are aiming to kill the family. He has gone into hiding, along with his children, sheltered inside a Christian colony in an outlying district of Sheikhupura. Masih insists his wife was framed, a victim of old score-settling in their village of Ittan Walli, where his family was just one of two Christian families.

Anjum Naveed / AP
Ashif Masih, right, husband of Christian woman Asia Bibi who had been sentenced to death, and daughters Sidra Shahzadi and Isham Ashiq listen to Pakistani minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, unseen, during a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan on Nov. 24.

“She was picking berries with other women, when she was sent to get water,” her husband said. “One of the women refused to drink the water after my wife dipped her cup into the bucket. This woman said it was contaminated because it was touched by a Christian.”
According to Masih, all the women then started taunting his wife, and shouting insults against her mother and their children. Bibi just repeated the same insults back at them. “The name of the holy prophet never came up.”

At the time, Masih said he thought that was the end of it. It wasn’t.
“Five days later, the local cleric came to our house, followed by an angry mob, and dragged my wife away,” he said, recalling the incident that took place in June 2009. They beat her, ripped off her clothes and accused her of insulting the prophet. Then they locked her up in a house until the police came to take her away.”

In an interview with NBC News, Qari Muhammed Salem, the local cleric in Ittan Walli, accused Masih of lying. “I talked to everyone who witnessed this incident and she is guilty,” he said. “She confessed to the crime in front of the entire village and then she begged for forgiveness,” he insisted.
“She even told me she said these things in rage during a heated argument and would never think of blasphemy,” he said. Salem said he called the police to lock her up, only to protect her, because the angry mob would have killed her.

Najma Yousaf, a sister of Bibi, still lives in the family home in Ittan Walli, a rural village of approximately 10,000 inhabitants, almost all Muslim. “I’m not afraid to live in our house,” she said. “The villagers are all very nice with me, my husband and our children. They are angry with my sister.”
Bibi, 45, is the first woman condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. While no one has ever been executed, most of the accused – all men – languish in prison alone and forgotten.
Human rights groups point out that the law is a convenient way to settle scores, often among the Christian community who total about 2 million of Pakistan’s 175 million people.

In a statement released from New York, Human Rights Watch, called for Pakistan’s government to immediately introduce legislation to repeal the blasphemy laws.

“Asia Bibi has suffered greatly and should never have been put behind bars,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The injustice and fear the blasphemy law spawns will only cease when this heinous law is repealed.”

You can read the rest of the NBC article  HERE.
The article was written by NBC's Carol Grisanti and Fakhar ur Rehman

Please send in your emails and letters TODAY - right now. Call the White House, call your representatives. Do whatever you can.

Pakistan's President:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

President Obama:
 In our family, we each sent this email to the White House, Pakistan's President (edited) and to Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi)

As an American citizen, I have helped to contribute the billions of tax dollars that my country has provided to Pakistan's government and military.

Since Pakistan is supposedly our partner in the War on Terrorism, I am appalled that this ally is carrying out its own act of terrorism against an innocent mother of five children.

I refer to the scheduled execution of 48 year-old Bibi Hasih, a Christian woman who will be killed by Pakistan's government for the alleged crime of blasphemy unless you and others successfully intervene. Pakistan's abysmal human rights record is worsened by its hateful system of apartheid against Christians, other non-Muslim religious minorities, and women.

It is time for democratically elected leaders in the U.S. and Pakistan to get serious about human rights and combating terrorism. This case provides a high-profile opportunity to draw a clear picture of the difference between a free society and a theocratic dictatorship. I thank you for any efforts you will make on the behalf of Bibi and others.

1 comment:

Abbey said...

This is so, so sad, Soutenous. I have been told (I have not read it for myself) that the Bible says this part of the world will ALWAYS be in turmoil. Yet, I feel so helpless when I read of such horrid behavior by the government of a Middle Eastern country. It is barbaric!! I am praying for this poor woman and counting my blessings that, at least for now, I can worship as I please.

Abbey ♥

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