11/27/2018, 16.26
PAKISTAN
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Pakistani Muslim defends Asia Bibi, calls for the abolition of blasphemy law

by Anna Chiara Filice

The Christian woman is stuck in Pakistan and cannot leave the country because of an agreement between the government and radicals. Activist Wajahat Abbas Kazmi claims that moderates "are silent because they know that expressing themselves can be dangerous for themselves and their families". In his view, there is "no justification" for people protesting against Asia Bibi’s acquittal.

Rome (AsiaNews) – What s happening in Pakistan against Asia Bibi is a “disgrace”. Even more disgraceful is the “agreement between the government and Islamic radicals", which has effectively prevented the Christian woman from leaving the country, despite her acquittal of the accusation of blasphemy, this according to Wajahat Abbas Kazmi, a filmmaker and LGBT activist who spoke to AsiaNews.

One of the few Pakistani Muslims who openly stand by Asia Bibi and against anti-Christian discrimination in his country, Wajahat currently lives in Italy. His life has been repeatedly threatened because of his work in favour of human rights. Despite this, he hasn’t stopped speaking out against persecution.

In the coming weeks, his second book title ‘Asia Bibi: La tragedia di una donna cristiana vista attraverso gli occhi di un musulmano’ (Asia Bibi: The tragedy of a Christian woman seen through the eyes of a Muslim), will be published.

According to the activist, the cause of the Asia Bibi’s painful experience is "the abuse of the blasphemy law", which has been used, he stressed, " not only against Christians but also Muslims".

How do you interpret the silence of moderate Muslims in the Asia Bibi affair?

In Pakistan, moderates are silent because they know that those who tried to defend the woman have been threatened or even killed. Pakistanis do not speak out because they know that expressing themselves can be dangerous for themselves and their families. In addition to this, I believe that those who live outside the country know little of the case, they do not know all the details, whether she was accused of blasphemy or guilty according to this law.

Why is it that radical views dominate the Islamic world?

It is very simple: because loud voices are easily heard, whilst peaceful voices have always been silenced. I also think that those who express themselves in favour of peace do not have sufficient media coverage. Also, most readers want to hear those who scream louder.

What do you think of the blasphemy law? Why don’t people reject it?

The rules that criminalise offenses against the Islamic religion are rooted in the English (colonial-era) Penal Code, like all other laws in force in Pakistan. The critical point is that they have not been scrapped, and new ones have been added over the years (like under General Zia-ul Haq’s military regime).

But we must be careful. Christians are not the only victims of this law; Muslims are as well. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been abused just like any other law. it is not just a law used against minorities, because in the country any law can be used against anyone who is not powerful enough to defend themselves. In recent years, some of the biggest countries in the world have rid themselves of such laws. I hope this gradually happens in Pakistan too.

In your country extremists have blocked roads demanding Asia Bibi be hanged. In the end, Imran Khan's government came to terms with them. Do you believe that the authorities have given in?

It is a disgrace; there is no defence for this. There is no justification for people protesting against Asia Bibi’s acquittal. At the same time, contrary to what the agreement with the radicals says, Asia Bibi’s name has not been added to the list of people banned from leaving Pakistan. This gives us hope that the agreement is not so important.

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