To Hang or Not To Hang – That is NOT the Question

To Hang or Not To Hang – That is NOT the Question

Asia Bibi, a woman, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death approximately six years ago- a happening that added to the miseries of the already-marginalized Christians within Pakistan. At the time, very few had the mental capacity to question the Lahore High Court’s verdict to sentence an innocent woman to death. For those who did, the chickens came home to roost. Salman Taseer paid his price for speaking against the xenophobic and heinous blasphemy law with 27 bullets, blood splattered across the Kohsar Market, with the words of his tweet drenched in his blood, My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without, I fear only the radiance of the flowers, that it might burn my garden down.”

Even the drops of his blood couldn’t assuage the flames of the fire that burns so brightly in the hearts of the zealots of every stripe in Pakistan.

6 years down the line, there is hope. Hope that justice might prevail. Hope that Asia Bibi would be allowed to see the outside of the prison walls, to once again be bold and free like she was before the day that belonging to the religion of the majority held precedence over being right. This ray of hope has manifested itself in the verdict of the Supreme Court to stave off the execution of Asia Bibi, and to allow her petition to be heard.

The Supreme Court has taken a decision that ought to be lauded, for in the country where a Christian woman’s testimony holds no significance over a Muslim one, where our rationale goes south in the face of religious beliefs, this is a decision that reflects upon the ideas left behind by Salman Taseer that continue to gain foothold despite the jingoism that is on an evident rise in Pakistan. For it is only fair, that you can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.

According to frequent interviews that her husband has given in the hope of rallying enough support to demand justice for his wife, Asia Bibi had argued back, unable to show stoicism in the face of some half-veiled and other full-blown insults of how a non-Muslim was “unfit” to touch their “Muslim Holy Grail”. Since when has Islam divided society along the characterization of the “touchables” and the “untouchacbes” or maybe it’s just the effect of self-proclaimed, fanatic evangelists that are responsible for all the lives ruined and families destroyed by virtue of the hate-speech that they propagate in Jummah sermons to their die-hard aficionados.

The question, in principle, isn’t and shouldn’t be about her death sentence at all, for the woman’s innocence speaks for itself. But the real question is about the xenophobic laws that have empowered the fanatics to the extent that false accusations fueled by personal feuds are enough reason to burn someone to ashes, or to report them to the police, both of which bring about similar outcomes: the pilfered right to justice and life.

All those in support of the blasphemy laws need to be tried and tested in court for referring to Jesus as a Prophet and NOT the son of God. Why are the beliefs of one religion more important than the other? Why is a man superior for being born in the house of a Muslim over the other, who through a simple accident of fate, is born into a Christian household? All those in support of the blasphemy laws need to revisit the tenets of Islam, and find a way to save themselves from the necrotizing fasciitis that is gnawing at their already-diminished brains.

The ray of hope that now rests in the palms of the Supreme Court Judges, is Asia Bibi’s only chance to justice. One can only hope that justice will prevail despite all the pressures and attempts of the radicals to overshadow our society with a canopy of xenophobic hate and fanaticism.

But will it? Only time will tell.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which she might be associated.

Taskeen Zahra

Author: Taskeen Zahra

The writer is a political analyst with avid interest in global affairs, minority rights and education.