Nine years. That is how long Asia Bibi has spent in prison and on death row for an alleged blasphemy – which she has always denied. It is also how old her daughter Eisham was, back in June 2009, when she witnessed an enraged crowd beating her mother. Now 18, she met with ACN on Saturday 13 October in London, accompanied by her father, Ashiq Masih.
Asia was accused of having “insulted” the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with two Muslim women from her village, who had refused to drink water from a glass that she had just used. Asia Bibi is the first woman to have been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s draconian anti-blasphemy laws.
“We last saw Asia on Monday 1st October, before coming to the United Kingdom. She is well, physically and spiritually”, her husband, Ashiq Masih, told ACN on Saturday 13 October in London. “After being accused of blasphemy, she has suffered, her whole family has suffered, for almost 10 years now. But by the grace of God, we hope she will very soon be set free”, he added.
According to the Telegraph UK– Britain has not offered asylum to a Pakistani Christian woman freed after eight years on death row for blasphemy because of fear it would prompt “unrest” in the UK and attacks on embassies, her supporters claim.
Asia Bibi and her family had appealed for sanctuary in Britain after her conviction was quashed by Pakistan’s supreme court.
The acquittal of the 53-year-old Catholic farmworker prompted days of demonstrations by hardline Islamist parties in Pakistan who had campaigned for her to be hanged.
The mother-of-five remains hidden in Pakistan after Imran Khan’s government agreed to allow a petition against the court decision, as part of a deal to halt the protests.
VIDEO: Thousands of supporters of Islamist parties take to the streets of Karachi to protest Asia Bibi’s acquittal and call for her beheading. Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy was freed from jail
VIDEO: Thousands of supporters of Islamist parties take to the streets of Karachi to protest Asia Bibi's acquittal and call for her beheading. Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy was freed from jail pic.twitter.com/zh24mV0TYM
— AFP news agency (@AFP) November 9, 2018
Not every Muslim Pakistani literally wants her head, but thousands do, and for that reason the soon to be released, Christian, mother of five, Asia Bibi, and her family will need to leave their homeland and flee to safety. Normally, Britain would be the first choice for Bibi and her family to seek asylum, but not anymore.
According to the Telegraph UK– Britain is home to more than three million Muslims for the first time ever with more than half born outside the UK, according to new figures.
The number has doubled in just over a decade as a result of soaring immigration and high birth rates.
In some parts of London, almost half the population are now Muslims, according to analysis from the Office for National Statistics.
And if current trends continue, the areas could become majority Islamic within ten years.
Americans, however, are supposed to believe and accept that as soon as we take them in as refugees, and give them citizenship, they will suddenly become tolerant of other religions and want to assimilate. The UK took a similar viewpoint. Today, the UK government is rejecting asylum for a Pakistani, Christian, mother of five, who has served a 9 year prison term after being accused of blasphemy, out of fear for “potential unrest in the country, attacks on embassies and civilians”.
A UK campaign group in touch with the family said the British government was working to help Asia Bibi, but had stopped short of offering asylum.
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: “Britain was concerned about potential unrest in the country, attacks on embassies and civilians.
“They have not offered automatic asylum, whereas several countries have now come forward. They won’t be coming to Britain. The family will definitely not be coming to Britain.”
He said Britain was “being helpful”, but it was “an enduring shame that a country with such a lauded history of helping refugees and asylum seekers, that when the Asia Bibi case has come before them, they haven’t been as generous as they have for many victims in the past”.
“Britain would have been one of their first choices. America, Britain and Canada, these would have been their first choices. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth.”
Mr Chowdhry said a plan for her to leave the country was being drawn up, but that none of her supporters would give details until she and her family were safely out, adding that Mrs Bibi is unable to leave the country until the legal petition has run its course.
“We cannot remain in Pakistan”
Her husband, Ashiq Masih is quite lucid in recognising that “everyone is afraid; everyone is facing threats – the supporters of Asia Bibi, her lawyers, her judges.” Nevertheless, one can see that he is proud of living in Pakistan, among the Muslims, who represent almost 96% of the population. He goes on to add, “not all of them are in favour of the execution of Asia Bibi. There are many people who understand that we are suffering. But the extremists, and the fundamentalist organisations are also very numerous.” Numerous, and extremely vindictive, as Father Emmanuel Yousaf, the president of the Justice and Peace commission of the Pakistani Catholic Bishops’ Conference, emphasises.
And so, it is with a heavy heart that Ashiq acknowledges that his family can no longer remain in Pakistan. And while he is not revealing the place of their exile, he nonetheless continues to trust in providence: “God will take care of Asia Bibi and her family. He will find us a peaceful place. God will choose for us.” A peaceful place, from which her daughter Eisham is determined to continue her studies in law in order to become a barrister, and so to be able to help the poorest and those accused of blasphemy.