“First They Came for Asia Bibi”

Is Britain becoming a Nazi state? It would seem unlikely, but to listen to some of the critics of the Conservative government in recent days it would appear that we are only moments away from become a racist despotism.

Last week the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, one Christina McKelvie, pronounced that the Conservative party is displaying “some of the most right-wing reactionary politics that I’ve heard in my lifetime” and claimed that the Conservative party’s recent conference showed what will happen in Britain “if we become bystanders and do not speak out against discrimination.” She said that some recent Conservative proposals were “reminiscent of the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.”

Higher up the Scottish Nationalist Party food-chain, one of their MPs, Mhairi Black last week also compared the recent Conservative party conference to the Nazi party. She wrote without irony that she was vexed by its alleged “nationalism’, all the more “when that “nationalism” is used as a motivation or an excuse for racist, bigoted and small minded policy.” The policies of the Conservative party, she claimed, were increasingly “reminiscent of early 1930s Nazi Germany.” As though to demonstrate how sparse her knowledge of that period is, she concluded her piece by citing — as though no one could possibly have come across the quotation before — Pastor Martin Niemoller. “First they came for the Jews.”

Having sparked some criticism, other nationalists soon came to the aid of Ms Black. Notable among them was Humza Yousaf, one of the ministers of the SNP and himself a member of the Scottish Parliament. While many people on social media criticised Ms Black’s absurd rhetoric, he chose to back her up. “Those criticising, I have friends/family who have applied for dual nationality with Pakistan. Feel UK will be unbearable for Muslims in future.” This gained headlines of its own. But nobody pointed out the twin outrages of this grotesque nonsense.

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“Justice” in Pakistan: Asia Bibi

For the first time since her arrest in 2009, Asia Bibi saw a sign of hope when the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave her permission to appeal the death sentence she was served twice: first by the High Court in 2010 and again in 2014. She is, however, still waiting for justice.

Asia Bibi, 50, and a mother of five, was accused of blasphemy in June 2009 by her coworkers in a dispute over bowl of water. They told her that, as she is a Christian, she could not drink water from the same bowl as they were. The argument that ensued led to an angry mob assaulting her, and her arrest on the charge of “blasphemy” — that she allegedly had uttered derogatory remarks about the Islamic Prophet Mohammad.

Bibi became the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. Since her arrest, her family has also faced threats which have forced them to move to an undisclosed location.

Bibi was charged with violating section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code, which states:

“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to a fine.”

The words that Asia Bibi said to her coworkers, in response to their remarks against her, were: “I believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?”

It was the last sentence that apparently incited the mob before the police arrested her. Mobs attacking blasphemy victims in Pakistan know that nothing will happen to them. The situation is common — the incidents of Shanti Nagar, Gujran and Badami Bagh involved large-scale mob violence against the Christians and their communities in Pakistan.

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The West Must Say “Je Suis Asia Bibi”

The death sentence for Asia Bibi is like Chernobyl’s nuclear cloud: it contaminates everything around it. After Asia’s arrest, her husband, Masih, and her children went into hiding. They have moved house 15 times in five years. They could not even attend Asia’s judicial hearings. It is too dangerous for them. Her husband was forced to quit his job.

Asia’s “crime” was to use the same water glass as her Muslim co-workers. She was sentenced to death because she is Christian and she was thirsty. “You defiled our water,” the Muslim women told her. “Convert to Islam to redeem yourself from your filthy religion.”

Asia took a deep breath and replied: “I will not convert. I believe in my religion and Jesus Christ. And why should I be the one to convert and not you?”

On November 8, 2010, after just five minutes of deliberation, Asia Noreen Bibi, under Article 295 of the Pakistani Code, was sentenced to death by hanging. The crowd cheered the verdict. She was alone and burst into tears. Next to her there were two policemen, visibly satisfied. In the days after, 50,000 people in Karachi and 40,000 in Lahore took the streets to brandish an image of Asia Bibi with the rope around her neck. They say they will not rest until she is hanged or shot.

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