Asia Bibi freed, Austrian woman convicted of denigrating Islam

Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy in 2010, has been acquitted by the country’s highest court. After fetching a cup of water for two fellow Muslim farm workers on a hot day, they accused her of making the cup unclean by taking a sip from it, and insisted she convert to Islam. A quarrel ensued and a mob later alleged that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed. She has spent the last eight years on death row.

The Guardian reports:

Justice Asif Khosa, in a verdict widely praised for its courage and rigour, noted that the two sisters who accused Bibi “had no regard for the truth” and that the claim she smeared the prophet in public was “concoction incarnate”.

“It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’,” Khosa went on, “but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”

The court delayed releasing its verdict for three weeks while extraordinary security measures were put in place owing to threats by blasphemy campaigners to protest any acquittal and kill the judges. This is far from an empty threat, since in 2011 Punjabi Governor Salmaan Taseer was murdered after defending Mrs Bibi and calling for a reform of the blasphemy laws, which are often used by aggrieved individuals to settle personal scores and, in Asia Bibi’s case, to persecute Christians.

Also murdered in 2011 was the first Pakistani Minister for Minorities, Catholic convert Shahbaz Bhatti, who spoke up for Mrs Bibi.

But in an ironic coincidence, as Asia Bibi was being acquitted of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed, the European Court of Human Rights, whose rulings are legally binding upon all EU, including the UK, ruled that criticism of Mohammed can no longer be regarded as protected free speech but constitutes incitement to hatred.

With its unprecedented decision, the ECHR — which has jurisdiction over 47 European countries — has effectively legitimized an Islamic blasphemy code. This no doubt is seen by “progressives” as essential to preserving the peace of Europe, although the case was not based on the prosecution of a rabble-rouser, but involved a series of lectures given by an Austrian woman, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.

In the same year that Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered, Ms Sabaditsch-Wolff was convicted of “denigrating of religious beliefs of a legally recognised religion.”

The case began in 2009 when she presented a three-part seminar about Islam to the Freedom Education Institute, a political academy linked to the Austrian Freedom Party (now part of the government). The lectures were secretly recorded by a left-wing journalist, and the recordings were handed by the left-wing magazine News to the public prosecutor, leading to a prosecution for hate crime under Section 283 of the Austrian Criminal Code.

Coincidentally, just as a Christian in Pakistan is acquitted of blasphemy, an appeal by Ms Sabaditsch-Wolff to the ECHR has effectively introduced a blasphemy law into the laws of all EU nations, none of which has a Muslim majority.

It is no coincidence, however, that it was a left-wing periodical that engineered Ms Sabaditsch-Wolff’s prosecution, since cultural Marxists have invented their own form of blasphemy – political correctness, or, publicly disagreeing with any of their current preoccupations, which include an allergy to any criticism of Islam.

It is ironic that their other preoccupations involve sexual activities that under Islamist rule would guarantee the death penalty. But just as Mrs Bibi and the judges who acquitted her – and anyone who dares to support them – are now in great danger of their lives, so now the West is living under a double threat: political exclusion and prosecution for criticising political correctness, and physical harm from criticising the prophet Mohammed, who would undoubtedly be the greatest critic of political correctness.

We now have a government that bows to political correctness at every opportunity and is too fearful of appearing “nasty” to challenge the threat of Islamism; and that is the most dangerous irony of all.  

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).


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