On October 9, Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard the final appeal of a Christian woman who has been on death row for nearly a decade on the accusation that she insulted Islam’s prophet Muhammad. The woman’s fate is now sealed: “They [judges] have come to a decision, but it has been reserved,” reported Mehwish Bhatti, an officer with the British-Pakistani Christian Association, from the courthouse.
Aasiya Noreen — better known as “Asia Bibi” — is a 47-year-old married mother of five children who was charged with violating Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law nearly a decade ago.
According to her autobiography, Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death Over a Cup of Water, on June 14, 2009, Bibi went to work picking berries in a field. Although she was accustomed to being ostracized by the other female pickers on account of her Christian faith, things came to a head when, on a sweltering summer day, she drank water from a common well.
“Don’t drink that water, it’s haram [forbidden]!” shouted a woman nearby. She then turned to the other women working in the field workers and said, “Listen, all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back several times. Now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!” (Such beliefs are not uncommon in the Muslim world. In one video, an Egyptian cleric expresses his great disgust at Christians, and how he could not drink from a cup that was merely touched by a Christian.)
The argument spiraled, and the women began calling on Bibi to convert to Islam in order to save herself. “What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?,” Asia Bibi shot back.