A woman who said she suffered “psychological torture” while in a Pakistani prison on blasphemy charges has called for her homeland to abolish its anti-blasphemy laws.
Asia Bibi, who was on death row for years after being accused of besmirching the name of the founder of Islam, called the laws a “sword” in the hands of the Muslim majority against the country’s Christian minority.
Bibi, who has settled in Canada after finally being freed by Pakistan’s highest court, said the near-decade-long separation from her daughters while she was in prison constituted “psychological torture.”
She spoke on Tuesday during a Zoom presentation of Aid to the Church in Need’s biannual Religious Freedom in the World report.
Pakistan is one of a number of countries where it is a crime to make disparaging remarks about Muhammad or Islam, or to deface sacred objects such as the Quran. In some places, the laws have been misused by citizens seeking revenge against Christian neighbors in personal disputes.
In June 2009, Bibi, a member of the lowest caste of “untouchables,” had a verbal dispute with a Muslim who lived next door to her and worked in the same fruit field as she did.
According to some reports, some Muslim co-workers, believing that a utensil had become “unclean” after it was touched by a Christian woman, refused to drink water Bibi had fetched for them. An exchange of harsh words between the two sides allegedly ended with Bibi uttering derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.
The accusation is widely suspected to have been trumped up, but public pressure, including a vocal element that threatened to assassinate Bibi if she were released, kept the case from being resolved.
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