When courts overturned Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction in her native Pakistan last week, rioters swarmed the streets, calling for her to be hung. Pakistan law demands the death penalty for blasphemers, and so, too, does its Muslim-majority public. The rioting grew severe enough for lawmakers to take new measures: Bibi, a Christian, has been barred from leaving the country. And citing concerns for her safety, the government has continued to hold her in prison despite the judges’ ruling.
Also at risk: Bibi’s Muslim lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, who has argued her case for the duration of the nearly ten years she has spent incarcerated. Malook has now escaped Pakistan and has taken temporary refuge in the Netherlands.
Holland is not a random choice. Malook has received support from the Dutch Stichting Hulp Vervolgde Christenen (Foundation for the Aid of Persecuted Christians) which has also provided financial support for Bibi’s defense.
Bibi, a Christian woman, was convicted of blasphemy after she drank water from a communal cup while working in the fields with Muslims. The women working with her claimed that as a Christian, she had contaminated the cup. They also accused Bibi of uttering three “defamatory and sarcastic” comments about Islam’s prophet Mohammed during an ensuing argument.