After wasting nine years of an innocent uneducated Christian woman, Asia Bibi’s life, a dead governor, Salman Taseer and a dead minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti later, Pakistan’s Supreme court acquitted Asia Bibi. Everyone knows that she probably did commit blasphemy yet everyone from the top politicians to the judges, from police officers to the ordinary public, all had to resort to either genuinely believe that Asia Bibi was innocent or downright lying that she was innocent. The problem doesn’t lie with whether she was guilty of breaking this outrageous law or not, the problem lies with having this law. If you implement an outrageous and barbaric law like stoning of adulterers, then you will always have people who will demand it to be carried out. Just like that, as long as the blasphemy law exists, there will always be people who will demand people’s death.
There are numerous stories circulating regarding the account of Asia Bibi. What really happened? The most likely story is when some local Muslim women refused to share a cup with Asia Bibi since she was an impure non-Muslim Christian woman, Asia Bibi commented that “Muhammad married Khadijah for money.” Under Pakistan’s blasphemy law and even its most benign interpretation, it will lead you to the conclusion that this is blasphemy.
Any sane person would say this is not a big deal breaking comment anyway but since this law exists to appease the religious extremists, Pakistan’s establishment pays lip service to these radicals by twisting and turning the facts. Instead of repealing this law or stating this is not a big deal, they always end up developing a rhetoric that the victim never actually committed blasphemy hence shouldn’t be killed. No blasphemer has ever been killed by the Pakistani judiciary. Does this mean no one ever committed blasphemy? A highly unlikely conclusion.
Pakistanis have to start asking themselves whether it is worth having this law? Things are never black and white hence this law will always be open to interpretation. Calling Muhammad an opportunist could be blasphemous as well as calling him a mass murderer could be blasphemous but you could see how the former is not as harsh as the latter then why have the capital punishment for both?
Since Asia Bibi’s release, the extremists and the clerics have issued fatwas on the lives of the prime minister Imran Khan, army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa and the three supreme court judges. If you think about it, the demands of the extremists are perfectly rational. You have a law that calls for the death of the blasphemers then why shouldn’t they be killed? One can sell any rhetoric they want but truth always has a habit of coming out. Asia Bibi probably did blaspheme Muhammad then instead of lying and finding reasons to convince the masses that she didn’t blaspheme (because all the evidence suggests she did) why not say that even if she did blaspheme, it is not good enough to take her life?
I think the world is changing, Pakistan also has to change and it has a huge population of educated moderate Muslims who are exposed to the western culture. There is probably no young Muslim with access to the internet, left in at least Pakistan, who wouldn’t have come across some sort of abuse directed at Muhammad and these Muslims would have felt their helplessness in doing anything about it. This is the way forward, get used to it! The world is not going to stop criticising Muhammad just because some Muslims can’t take it. If anything, more and more people will criticise Muhammad and might I add, will become harsher and harsher. So, these Muslims will start getting desensitised to this sacred cow status of Muhammad and eventually this law has to go. How soon, that remains to be seen.