A former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Farzana Hassan, has made a plea on behalf of Christian mother Asia Bibi, who fell victim to Pakistan’s oppressive blasphemy laws and is scheduled to be executed. The Muslim Canadian Congress is composed of outspoken and courageous critics of Islamic fundamentalism or “extremism,” founded by Tarek Fatah and including members such as Mahfooz Kanwar, Tahir Aslam Gora and Hasan Mahmud. Among other daring positions, the good folks at MCC have backed a ban on the burka and niqab – full face coverings worn by Muslim women – in Canada.
Under the motto “Fighting Islamism on behalf of Muslims,” the MCC represents the real face of Muslim moderation, and its members should be given a much wider audience and empowered much more greatly. Instead, when founder Tarek Fatah became ill and was hospitalized, fanatical Muslims in Canada took the opportunity to wish and threaten death upon him, while Tahir Gora was deemed a “pseudo-Muslim” and likewise threatened with death. Their pleas for the police to protect them from such murderous fanatics fell on deaf ears.
These threats demonstrate why “moderate” Muslims often do not speak out against their more fanatical brethren, who consider these “moderates” to be murtad or “apostates” and munafiq or “hypocrites,” worthy of death. Muslims of conscience are frequently bullied into submission and their plea for protection against the fanatical thugs are ignored by authorities, even in the West.
Despite the risks even in Western countries where they should receive greater protection against the threats of Islamist fanatics, individuals such as Fatah and Hassan continue to speak out against the cruelty and brutality of Islamic fundamentalism or what has been deemed “radical” or “extreme.” This “radical Islam,” however, is held by many millions of people, who consider themselves not to be “radicals” but to be the most devout Muslims.
Asia Bibi and Pakistan’s “Madness”
As Pakistani Christian mother Asia Bibi has discovered the hard way, it is easy to run afoul of Islamist fundamentalists and extremists, as she sits awaiting her fatal fate. Bibi’s case is notorious, as it exemplifies how abusive “blasphemy” laws can be and have been used to destroy minorities in Muslim-dominant countries. These persecuted minorities include not only religionists such as Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Bahai, Yazidis and Jews but also the nonreligious such as atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and secular humanists.
In this regard, it should be kept in mind that Pakistan is 97% Muslim, demonstrating the intolerance of Islamic fundamentalism flourishing not only there but also in the 24 other countries that are 90-100% Muslim and the many others that are 50% Muslim and above. In such an environment, it is easy to understand why someone like Bibi – and she is far from alone – could be destroyed by the religiously fanatical system.
Bibi sits accused of a non-crime for most reasonable and rational people, on the merest of whispers, by bigoted individuals who are absolutely intolerant of all other views outside of Islam’s fundamentalist doctrines, which allow for no criticism of Islam, Allah, Mohammed or the Koran. Hence, a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist’s mere existence is considered an affront to Islam by fundamentalists/extremists.
Bibi’s only alleged “crime” was that she supposedly spoke ill of Islam’s prophet Mohammed, after she was discriminated against in what would be considered by some to be “racist” behavior, simply because she is a Christian in a Muslim-dominant country. The accusation of “blasphemy” tossed out to destroy defenseless innocents is unfortunately common in Islam-dominant regions such as Pakistan.
Bibi’s case and cause have become internationally known, but nothing seems to have come of the tens of thousands of petition signatures and attempts to impart to the Pakistan government how shameful and uncivilized are its antiquated and abusive blasphemy laws. As reported in the Pakistani daily Dawn.com (“The story of Asia Bibi does not matter in Pakistan”):
Like all those accused of blasphemy by the twisted mullah-obsessed minds, Asia Bibi’s cry for justice has fallen on deaf ears.
For Pakistanis, Asia Bibi is a menace; another woman defaming the honourable men of this country, another figure challenging them to introspection, another symbol against the creeping social bigotry….
…Having been on death row for over four years for alleged blasphemy, she has successfully been blacked out from major media coverage.
This media blackout is even more remarkable considering that the few voices that spoke out against the sheer injustice done to her, including the then governor of the Punjab province, have now been silenced with a few bullets.
For most countries the shame of a governor being assassinated by his own guard would have been almost unbearable. However in Pakistan, after publicly admitting to the assassination of the governor of Pakistan’s largest province, the assassin was accorded a hero’s welcome when he made his first court appearance.
As we can see, Pakistan’s blasphemy “madness” is so pronounced that major politicians siding with the accused themselves can be murdered, shamelessly and with great fanfare as the act of a true Islamist “hero.”
Canadian Pakistani activist weighs in
Stepping into this fray is the courageous and conscientious peace activist Farzan Hassan, a fellow Pakistani and signer of our anti-blasphemy petition. In an article in the Toronto Sun entitled “Victim of Pakistan’s Madness,” Hassan says:
Asia Noreen Bibi has languished in a Pakistani prison for five years on charges of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed.
She is a mother of five. Her husband and children have fled into hiding.
The sentence followed a tiff between Bibi and two Muslim women over a drinking vessel.
The women refused to drink out of a cup Asia Bibi had touched because she is a Christian.
Clearly a trivial matter, which should have ended there.
However, the Muslim women played the blasphemy card, resulting in Asia’s conviction and death sentence in 2010 by a district court in Punjab province.
The law in Pakistan is discriminatory and repressive enough as it is.
But even its draconian provisions have been violated to accommodate the rabid fundamentalism that has penetrated the very fabric of Pakistani society.
First, there was no real case to begin with, as the evidence against Bibi was derisory.
The man who issued the formal complaint did not even witness the so-called blasphemous statement she is alleged to have made.
A recent high court decision that rejected Bibi’s appeal violated other provisions of the law…
What trumped the law was fear.In the recent high court rejection of Asia’s appeal, 25 clergy attended the hearings, supported by no less than 2,000 mullahs baying outside the courtroom for Bibi’s blood.
It is obvious why there is so much pressure in Pakistani courts to convict her.
Everyone who has tried to defend the woman has either been harassed or killed.
Governor Salman Taseer and Minister Shahbaz Bhatti paid with their lives trying to get her released….
Not only is the law itself a painful anachronism, but the way it is enforced reduces the justice system in Pakistan to a farce.
It turns millions of innocent people into potential victims.
Bibi is just the most prominent example of non-Muslims living on the edge of Pakistani society in a system that marginalizes and persecutes them.
The current Supreme Court of Pakistan is reputed to exercise sound judgment, integrity and wisdom, and some observers believe her lawyer will eventually be successful in arguing for Bibi’s release.
Despite this, according to another lawyer of considerable repute, it would be unwise to underestimate the extremism of those who wish death upon Bibi, or the fear they instill in moderate Pakistanis.
A squabble over a cup could still take this woman’s life.
I urge the Canadian government to come to her aid.
Our administration must continue to put pressure on the Pakistani government to reach a just decision.
The possibility of procuring Bibi’s release through extra-judicial means must also be considered.
Upon her release, Bibi should be allowed to enter Canada as a refugee.
Hassan’s request to the Canadian government to step in and rescue Bibi is a noble one, but with Canada’s current “hate speech” legislation and push by some specifically to criminalize “Islamophobia,” our neighbor to the north may not retain its noted status as a “safe haven” for refugees from Islamic fundamentalism, as it implements its own form of “blasphemy laws.” Hence, the work of the Muslim Canadian Congress and individual Muslims of conscience is so very important.
Victim of Pakistan’s madness
Ban public burkas: former Muslim Canadian leader
Toronto Police Refuse to Investigate Islamist Death Threats
Tarek Fatah: Some death threats don’t count
The story of Asia Bibi does not matter in Pakistan
Save Asia Bibi petition
Why online Islamophobia is difficult to stop: Laws not strong enough to police it, say experts
Petition to the UN to protect freedom from religion and barbaric blasphemy laws
Blasphemy laws around the world
Devout Muslims decry label of “extremist” and say they’re “normal” for Islam