11/19/2018, 00.00
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The silence of the Muslim world about Asia Bibi

by Kamel Abderrahmani

Among Muslims, no one has spoken about the fate of the Pakistani woman, stuck in her country after being acquitted on blasphemy charges. The power of Sharia and Islam also affects Great Britain. Asia Bibi’s fate is similar to what Christians, Jews, atheists and non-Sunni Muslims face in Islamic countries. A young Muslim teacher offers his thoughts on the matter.

Paris (AsiaNews) - We receive and publish the reflection of a young Algerian Muslim teacher, who lives in Paris. The author looks at Asia Bibi’s fate. Sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, the Pakistani woman was later exonerated but is now awaiting a revision of the Supreme Court ruling, following protests by Islamist parties, to which the government caved in.

Radio silence: the Muslim world seems to be blinded by his faith! Deaf and dumb when it comes to a Christian, a Jew or a non-Muslim victim of injustice. How can this be explained? Asia Bibi remains an unknown figure, although much of the Muslim world is aware of her conviction by Pakistani authorities. Her sentence was similar to the one issued by the Islamic State group against Yezidis and Christians [In Iraq]. No one was outraged, no Muslim demonstrated in front of the embassy of that country. Is this a complicitous silence or just indifference? So many legitimate questions can be asked. Obviously, we do not ask much, just a minimum of solidarity towards a woman who continues to endure injustice, despite her acquittal.

Asia Bibi is only one example of what religious minorities endure in Pakistan. This is a country whose constitution and justice system advocate Sunni sharia, a country that has slid into religious extremism; in other words, an Islamist state with nuclear weapons or even a successful Islamic State group, like Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is a country where Islamists can influence the decisions of the supreme court.

Let us return to what happened to this Christian labourer. In June 2009, a dispute arose between her and her Muslim colleagues who were picking berries with her. They told her that as non-Muslim, hinting at her Christianity, she had tainted a goblet which they drank from, and that she had made it unusable. An argument ensued, with each accusing the other of insulting their religion.

A few days later, Asia was beaten and taken to court. During her trial, she insisted on her innocence and denied any hostile statement against Islam. Pakistani justice, inspired by Sharia, sentenced her to death in November 2010. This is the fate reserved for all those who "blaspheme", even Muslims who have a different religious view from the Sunni vision.

Eight years later, after Herculean efforts on the part of Bibi’s defence team, the Pakistani justice system decided to review the decision and ended up exonerating the Christian woman. Whilst humanists around the world wait for the Pakistani people to bless such a positive decision on the part of the Supreme Court, fundamentalist voices and Islamists have come out against it, and after a few days, successfully stopped her from leaving the country. For Islamists, what counts is her hanging, nothing else!

What is aberrant is that British authorities turned down her application for asylum in Great Britain. Yet, a few days before, three imams and eminent Muslim leaders in the United Kingdom wrote a letter to the Home Affairs Minister, Sajid Javid, "clearly and proactively" stating that Britain "should be happy to receive a request for refuge" from Asia Bibi. This shows how much Islamists can inject fear in others today, because if British authorities refuse to accept Asia Bibi in their country, it is because they are afraid of terrorist attacks. This is partially understandable, but I do not understand how that same country can oppose the request for exile of a Christian woman threatened with death whilst accepting Egyptian, Algerian, Saudis, Pakistani Islamists? This is the big question mark?

I wonder why Muslim countries do not offer to welcome this woman? Of course, her Christianity bothers people and religious fundamentalism is spreading slowly but surely. Otherwise, nothing can explain such indifference vis-à-vis Asia Bibi’s case. That's why I feel at present obliged to write and denounce the injustice, the fundamentalism and the hell that is inflicted on Christians, Jews, atheists, and even non-Sunni Muslims in the Muslim world. Today, so-called Muslim states, implicitly, embody intolerance towards religious minorities. In short, what Asia Bibi has experienced in Pakistan is what other non-Muslims experience in other Muslim countries.

I am disappointed by the decadence and fundamentalism that affect the Muslim world whose essence and driving force are based unfortunately on a certain interpretation of religious texts. This is why, unceasingly, several imams have called for serious religious reform like the one undertaken by Catholicism in Europe.

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