Blasphemy laws in Pakistan legislate against "wounding the religious feelings of any person," specifically regarding Islam. In 1992, the death penalty became mandatory upon conviction on blasphemy charges. So far no one has been executed under the blasphemy law, but others have languished in prison for up to 14 years without a trial. Up to 10 others have been murdered while under investigation.
This week, Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five from the Punjab Province, became the first woman ever sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy law. Bibi has already been imprisoned for over a year. Pakistani officials make arrests based on a blasphemy complaint, and suspects are held during the investigation.
The police complaint against her said she called the Qur'an "fake" and made comments about one of Muhammad's wives and his declining health late in life. The incident under investigation happened when Bibi, a farm worker, brought water to her fellow female workers. Apparently, the Muslim women refused to share water with a Christian, calling it "unclean." The Punjab is home to Pakistan's small Christian minority and has seen over 30 group incidents against Christians since September 11.
It's hard to wrap my mind around a culture like that. Yet it sounds familiar because it's much like the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in the Bible. Jesus addressed the Jews' animosity toward the Samaritans many times, not only with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but when he asked—and received—a drink from the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-42). That was considered "unclean" contact, as well, but Jesus—who was in the majority group at the time—set an example by interacting with her. Of course, in the Bible, ...1
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