Religious minorities in Islamic countries are subject to legal disabilities, are routinely discriminated against, and are sometimes attacked, beaten, or killed. Persecution isn’t limited to individual bigotry and occasional mob action. The law against blasphemy is often used for extortion or revenge. Now a woman in Pakistan, Asia Bibi, has been sentenced to death.
In practice, conviction for blasphemy in Pakistan doesn’t lead to execution. Typically the accused are shot while trying to escape, or lynched after the prison guards are regrettably unable to protect them.
According to Pakistan’s penal code, “Whoever … defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” Though some Muslim extremists use the law to enforce compliance, most instances are not directly about religion. It’s not about respect for Muhammad; it’s about revenge.
People around the world, from the Vatican to Richard Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason and Science, have called for Bibi’s release and an end to the persecution of religious minorities. Maybe with the world watching there will be less chance of a regrettable ‘accident’ happening to this woman or her family.