Religious Liberty / Public Square

Save Asia Bibi


Roberto Rivera

Earlier this month, we told you about Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who faced execution for running afoul of that country’s anti-blasphemy law. Specifically, she was charged with insulting the prophet Muhammad after a dispute over whether as a Christian she drank water from the same cup as her Muslim neighbors.

On October 31, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her and ordered her release. What that might have brought her nine-year-long legal ordeal to an end, it did little to end the threats against her life. That’s because Islamists in Pakistani didn’t take the news of her acquittal very well. They took to the streets, threatened the Supreme Court with death, and vowed that her case would be settled on the streets, not in the courts.

Adding to the mess was the attempt by Prime Minister Imran Khan to have it both ways. He spoke about respecting the Court’s authority while, at the same time, vowing to enforce the anti-blasphemy law that nearly cost Asia Bibi her life.

To put it mildly, the sooner Asia Bibi, whose real name is Asia Noreen (“Bibi” is a South Asian honorific), and her family gets out of Pakistan, the better.

But where? The Netherlands, Britain, and Canada have all been mentioned as possible places of refuge for Asia and her family. Conspicuous by its absence is the country that best guarantee their safety: the United States.

Making the absence even more conspicuous are the noises the American government has made about promoting religious freedom around the world. At the conclusion of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom last summer, the Secretary of State committed the United States to “work with others around the world to help those under attack for their beliefs.”

A year ago, the Vice President expressed his anger over the fact that American aid wasn’t reaching Christian refugees.

That’s the rhetoric. Actions tell a different story. Mindy Belz at World Magazine has been writing about the plight of 100 Iranian Christians who were “invited to apply for asylum in the United States under a special U.S. law, then denied U.S. entry.” Their only hope has been the much-hated Federal Courts where an Obama (gasp!) appointee, judge Beth Labson Freeman, ruled that the government — our government! — could not deny their applications for asylum en masse.

Think about that. Christians fleeing a regime that the present administration regards as evil incarnate were dismissed with a wave of the hand.

Given this sad history, it’s not a surprise — an outrage but not a surprise — that the United States hasn’t been mentioned as a place of refuge for Asia Bibi and her family.

What can we do about it? Pray. Pray for the Noreen family’s safety and pray for a really frightening version of Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmas to haunt the sleep of everyone standing in the way of our offering Asia and her family.

And, we can demand that our government back its words with actions. Don’t what to say? No problem! Here’s a sample letter. It’s the one I sent my congressman, senators, and the Secretary of State:

As you undoubtedly know, on October 31, a Pakistani woman named Asia Noreen, better known as “Asia Bibi,” was found not guilty of blasphemy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan, by that country’s Supreme Court.

The ruling ended a nine-year legal battle for a woman whose only “offense” was being, along with her family, the only Christians in her village.

While Asia Bibi is no longer in legal jeopardy, she is still in great danger. As you also know, Islamists in Pakistan were outraged by the verdict. Prominent Islamist leaders threatened the Supreme Court with death — no small threat in a country where the two politicians who spoke out on Asia Bibi’s behalf were assassinated.

And, of course, they have vowed to obtain extrajudicially what they couldn’t obtain through the courts: Asia Bibi’s death.

Noreen and her family are trapped in a nation filled with people who would gladly kill her. She is being “guarded” by security services whose Islamist sympathies are well-documented. And, as the Guardian rightly put it, newly elected prime minister Imran Khan is playing a dangerous game with regards to her safety: defending the Supreme Court while appeasing extremists by also defending the blasphemy law.

The sooner Asia Bibi and her family are out of Pakistan the better.

And that brings me to my purpose for my writing you. While the Netherlands, Britain, and Canada have all been mentioned as possible destinations for the Noreen family, the UNited States has been conspicuous by its absence in these reports.

The United States is without question the safest place of refuge for Asia Bibi and her family. We have a 230-plus year commitment to religious freedom and tolerance. That the United States isn’t being mentioned as her ultimate destination is a betrayal of those principles and an abdication of our responsibilities.

As your constituent, and as your fellow person of good will, I urge you to do whatever is in your power to change this. To have Asia Bibi still in danger after her legal ordeal because we weren’t willing to “step up” and back up our words with our deeds would leave an indelible stain on our national honor.

Thank you for your kind attention to this important matter.

Please feel free compelled to do the same with your elected officials and the State Department. It’s literally a matter of life and death.


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