Source: Christian Today
By Rev Mark Woods, who is a Baptist minister and Managing Editor of Christian Today
All the world – at least all the right-thinking part of it – rejoices at the acquittal of Asia Bibi by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. It has been a long nine years since she was arrested on charges of blasphemy. Her eventual death sentence – the first ever handed down to a woman on this charge – galvanised world opinion against Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws. Revised and sharpened under the Islamist military dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq, these mandated punishments ranging from prison terms of up to 10 years for ‘Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’, through life imprisonment for defiling the Quran, to capital punishment for derogatory remarks, written or spoken, against Mohammad or other prophets.
In fact, the death penalty for blasphemy has never been carried out, and Asia Bibi – as a Christian and a woman who was the focus of huge international sympathy – was at less risk of it than others who have been found guilty. Her risk of death, however, was and is very great. It is no longer from the state, but from vigilantes who think the judiciary has gone soft. Dozens of people have been murdered on suspicion of blasphemy or while on remand. Her lawyers are at risk too, as are the judges who acquitted her, and those who’ve supported her publicly, and Christians in general. Already there have been violent demonstrations against the verdict and supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik have called for assassinations.
But why do they hate her so? Or to put it another way, since she’s been found not guilty of what they believe her to have done – why are they so set on killing anyone at all for what they say about their prophet?