Pakistan: I’m Afraid She’ll Be Killed Very Soon if Nothing Happens


A conversation with the French journalist who has followed Asia Bibi’s plight in Pakistan.

One summer morning in Pakistan, a Christian woman named Asia Bibi took a break from her fieldwork to drink a cup of cold water from a well. Since she was a Christian, the Muslim women there saw her actions as contaminating the water. Angered, the women began to argue with her. Bibi asked them, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”

Her question made the women furious. Bibi was beaten by a crowd and thrown into prison, accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. She has been held since June 2009, and has become an international symbol of the capriciousness and cruelty of the Pakistani blasphemy law. Two Pakistani officials who spoke up for Bibi have been assassinated.

While deadly attacks on Christians over proposals to repeal the blasphemy law have now been replaced by reprisals over drone strikes, the effect on Pakistan’s church is much the same. This weekend saw the deadliest attack ever on Pakistan’s Christians—at least 85 people were killed and 100 wounded in a bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar.

French journalist Anne Isabelle Tollet, serving as Bibi’s ghostwriter, tells her story in Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water. (We’re excerpting it today.) Freelance reporter Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra spoke with Tollet (before the weekend’s bombing) about the blasphemy law in Pakistan, relationships between the country’s Christians and Muslims, and the dimming hopes that Bibi will escape a martyr’s death.

In order to be Asia Bibi’s ghostwriter …continue reading @

5 replies

  1. I know enough about Islam to know that what those women did – attacking a stranger or guest in their midst rather than offering her welcome and peace … and a cup of water to ease her thirst. I also understand that Mohammed is revered and respected, but not worshipped as a god. I also know that his teachings are for Muslims to be respectful of others’ beliefs.

    So, my question is this: why would a group of Muslim women attack and try to kill this woman? And why would a Muslim government then treat her as a criminal for speaking of her beliefs and asking a question about Muhammed?

    All of this goes against what I have been assured by Muslim friends and by the public face of Islam. Please explain how these two points are not contradictory. (Please note that I am not trying to badger or upset, I am asking a serious question.)

    Thank you

  2. What I meant to say was “I know enough about Islam to know that what those women did … goes against Muslim teachings of hospitality and kindness.”

  3. The whole episode that the well should have been ‘contaminated’ because a Christian women drank from it is clearly Pakistan’s left-over influence from India’s Hindu culture. It is in the Hindu religion that water was supposed to become ‘contaminated’ if an ‘untouchable’ drinks from the same well as for instance a ‘Brahmin’ of the higher caste. Most Pakistani Christians are in fact convert from this Hindu ‘untouchable’ class and the attitude lingers on. Totally un-Islamic the whole thing.

  4. Dear Bob Collins, in addition to what Rafiq has said above, it is the bad laws enacted in Pakistan due to the pressure from ignorant bigots. The courts are bound to deliver their verdict according to those bad law.

    It is the bad work of the legislators in Pakistan. There is no one bold enough to speak up against those bad laws. It also means that legislators have no knowledge about the true teachings of Islam (??) What a bad house!

    Whatever you have written is perfectly alright.

  5. The one thing I would say is that the lack of education and knowledge is one hand behind those women’s actions. Also, these Pakistani women are influenced by culture. One always forgets that the society and culture you are from also shapes you as a person, and the society of Pakistan is impatient, hot headed and angry. They are full of hatred but not because of Islam, but due to their circumstances. That hatred is always taken out on the minority. It’s a sad thing to hear and very unfortunate.

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