Writing in 1954, psychologist Gordon Allport said, “The role of religion is paradoxical. It makes prejudice and it unmakes prejudice.” In no case is Allport’s observation better illustrated than in the tragic situation of Asia Noreen Bibi. On Monday, NPR’s Julie McCarthy chronicled the story of Bibi, a 45 year-old, Christian mother of five who is now in a Pakistani jail with a death sentence over her head. Her crime? She was convicted last month of blaspheming the prophet Muhammad, which under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, allowed the court to sentence her to death. Although no person has yet been executed under these laws, local Muslim extremists, including those representing the Taliban, have threatened violence if she is not executed.
Bibi has been in prison for over a year, awaiting the resolution of her fate, after being arrested following a verbal altercation with Muslim co-workers. According to reports, the Muslim women refused to accept water from her, calling her “unclean” due to her faith. She reportedly defended herself and then later was detained by the women, who tried to convert her. When this failed, Bibi was arrested and held in isolation until recently when the sentence of death was handed down.
Last week, Imam Maulana Yousuf Qureshi, who once gained international notoriety by calling for the murder of Danish cartoonists who drew caricatures of Muhammad, issued a $5800 reward for the murder of Bibi. Qureshi said that Muslim extremists will kill Bibi if she is freed.
Asia Bibi’s case requires an international outcry from people of all religious views. The bullying and murder of minority religious adherents in Pakistan must stop. Call upon the Pakistani government to free Asia Bibi and to guarantee safety for her and her family.