Hundreds of protests have been held throughout Pakistan by Muslims threatening destruction and murder if the nation’s Supreme Court doesn’t order the execution of a Christian woman who gave her coworkers water.
Asia Bibi, represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, has been charged with blasphemy against Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
“She was asked to fetch water, but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl,” ACLJ said. “The women went to a local cleric and accused Bibi of blasphemy against the prophet, a charge punishable by death under legislation that rights groups say is routinely abused to settle personal vendettas.”
Her case was heard on appeal Oct. 8 before the Pakistani Supreme Court, and the world awaits the decision.
Pakistan never has executed someone for blasphemy, but a number of defendants have been killed by mobs.
Now, Tufail Ahmad, a senior fellow for the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative, is writing about the threats and violence from Muslims.
The protests have taken place in an estimated 200 towns and cities, often immediately after Friday prayers at mosques.
“Religious clerics … who addressed the rallies in these towns vowed to continue their protests until the Supreme Court delivers its judgment and to oppose any attempt to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws,” Ahmad wrote. “Should the court verdict be lenient against Asia Bibi, they warned of countrywide chakka jaam – laying siege to traffic, a form of protests in South Asia where protesters stop, attack and burn vehicles.”
Pakistani media reported the protest leaders also took pledges from activists and the public to offer any sacrifice of life and wealth.
Ahmad cited one report that said “the lovers of Prophet Muhammad were seen to be extremely agitated and were demanding that the blasphemer Asia be hanged.”
The protests are being led by the Islamic party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah.
The group’s emir for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said: “The purpose of this protest is to raise awareness that if any such judgment is delivered in this sensitive case that grants concessions to the blasphemer Asia, then we will protest all over the country. We will jam [lay siege to traffic] the country and the entire responsibility of it will be on the government.”
The panel of Supreme Court judges included Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.
The leader of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, Maulvi Khadim Hussain Rizvi, led a three-week siege of Islamabad in November 2017 that forced then Pakistani law minister Zahid Hamid to resign.
In Punjab, activists against Bibi moved from the Data Darbar shrine under the direction of Rizvi.
“We will not compromise [any attack] on the honor of the prophet,” he told the crowd.
Ahmad cited a report by Roznama Jang newspaper that said “resolutions were adopted during Friday sermons in mosques across Pakistan for the defense of the honor of the Prophet Muhammad.”
“Islamic cleric Safdar Shah Geelani said: ‘[We are] united for the defense of the prophet’s honor and we consider the sacrifice of life for this purpose to be pious.’ Other organizations that took part in Friday’s protest rallies included World Pasban Khatm-e-Nabuwwat and Alami Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat. Both the organizations stand for enforcing the belief that Muhammad was the last prophet of Islam, another tenet considered to be part of the code of the prophet’s honor.”
ACLJ said the protesters are “enraged at the very possibility of this Christian’s life being spared.”
“They’re demanding her death and threatening consequences – even against the judges – if she’s released,” the group reported.
“This is an incredibly dangerous time, not only for Asia Bibi and the justices deciding her case, but the entire Christian community,” the ACLJ reported. “Pakistan’s Christian community fears they will be the first target of retribution if Bibi’s life is spared. They are asking for prayer and protection.”
ACLJ said the “barbaric mob rule” cannot be tolerated.
“It is well past time for the Pakistani government to take action and start protecting its Christian citizens.”
In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard for speaking up for Bibi.