11/11/2010, 00.00
INDIA - PAKISTAN

Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy: a campaign like for Sakineh

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Muslim scholar Asghar Ali Engineer accuses the blasphemy law of being un-Islamic and proposes an international campaign. He points his finger at the Pakistani government’s silence and that of many governments around the world. The All Indian Christian Council calls on New Delhi to submit the case to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Among the messages: "Silence is a second death sentence" for Asia Bibi.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "We need to save Asia Bibi’s life", the Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy and this is why “it is urgent to launch a campaign sustained by human rights leaders and governments ... We must not remain silent ": this is the appeal that Prof. Asghar Ali Engineer, an Indian Muslim scholar launches through AsiaNews. Other messages sent to AsiaNews demand action by the international community to save Asia Bibi with a campaign similar to that launched to save the live of Sakineh, the Iranian woman who is on death row, convicted of adultery.

Asia was sentenced to death last Nov. 7 by a court in Punjab. She was arrested for blasphemy in June 2009, after an argument with some of her colleagues in which she defended her religion. The other women, who are agricultural workers like Asia and her two daughters, were pushing her to renounce Christianity and embrace Islam. Asia Bibi replied by speaking about how Jesus died on the cross for the sins of mankind, and asked other women what Muhammad had done for them. The women then beat her and her daughters and egged on by the local imam and a group of men they accused her of blasphemy. The police took her into custody, saving her from a ferocious crowd. But after more than a year in prison she has been sentenced to death.

"In Pakistan, says the Prof. Asghar, it is becoming increasingly evident, as in the case of Aisa that blasphemy laws have become convenient instruments in the hands of anyone who chooses to target minorities. The Blasphemy Law, is un-Islamic and was introduced to legitimise dictator Gen Ziaul-Haq’s regime, and it makes little effort to ascribe to the evidentiary or doctrinal standards of classical Islamic law".

"This shameful law - said the Muslim scholar, director of the Centre for Society and Secularism - are used with impunity against minority religious communities by those motivated by personal enmity, by those motivated by monetary material or political gain or even land grabbing  Even indirect inferences are drawn and the accused is arrested under Blasphemy Law….there is nothing religious about".

Asghar Ali Engineer's plea comes almost simultaneously with the condemnation of the ruling by the All India Christian Council (AICC). In a statement released yesterday by the Secretary-General, the Catholic John Dayal, AICC The Council asked the Indian government to raise the mater with the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Pakistani Government and with other international for a to save the life of the woman”.

Prof. Asghar points his finger at the government: "The government of Pakistan - he tells AsiaNews - is responsible for ensuring the protection of minorities. We can only condemn these cruel acts against humanity. It must be said with sadness when the governments of many respectable nations remain silent, we can only condemn these acts. For this reason it is essential to start an international campaign to stop this. "

Among the several messages that have arrived at AsiaNews there is one that says: "It is only natural to wonder where all those people are who until the other day claimed to be scandalized and offended by the shameful situation of Sakineh , and who now ignore (or pretend to ignore) yet another case of persecution and injustice to a person of Christian faith ... The silence and indifference of the world, including many Christians (now accustomed to the persecution of Christians in the world), is a second death sentence".

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