Pakistan: riots after death sentence overturned
The acquittal of a woman convicted of blasphemy in predominantly Muslim Pakistan has driven Islamists onto the streets in protest. Asia Bibi, a Christian, allegedly made insulting comments about the Prophet Muhammad and was sentenced to death nine years ago under the country's controversial blasphemy law. Now the Supreme Court has overturned the verdict. Commentators stress the importance of this case.
Court defying the fundamentalists
Gianluca Di Feo, deputy editor-in-chief of La Repubblica, reckons the judgement could be groundbreaking:
“This sentence creates a vision of Islam that doesn't accept extremism and protects other religions. ... This vision collides with the reality of the country, where the impoverished masses are brought up with fundamentalist beliefs. ... Immediately after the acquittal an extremist party called on the faithful to rebel. ... What is happening in these hours on the streets of Karachi and Lahore affects us directly. Not because the protagonist is a Christian but because this case highlights the difficulties encountered when it comes to defending a moderate interpretation of Islam and creating the possibility of combining the values of democracy with those of the Muslim religion. A challenge on which the future of the entire planet depends.”
Figurehead of nameless martyrs
The quarrel in which Asia Bibi is said to have insulted the prophet Muhammad started when she as a "non-believer" allegedly sullied a well for Muslim fruit pickers. Le Figaro describes how the Pakistani woman has become an icon for many persecuted women in her own country and worldwide:
“A teacup that sparks a storm of hatred: this is the sad reality behind Asia Bibi's fate. Against her will, this courageous heroine has become a figurehead for Pakistanis (often Muslims) who are thrown into jail for blasphemy, as well as for the 150 million Christians around the world who are persecuted because of their faith. From the children of Mosul who were killed by those who blew up Jonah's Tomb to the prisoners in Libya who are sold as slaves by the barbarians of the caliphate, they form a long procession of anonymous martyrs.”