Last week, I wrote about the conviction of Aasia Bibi, now known as the “first Christian woman to be convicted of blasphemy.” Although she was held for a year before her conviction, the sentence has garnered outcries from human rights groups and citizens alike, from those who have called for Aasia Bibi not only to be released, but also for our leaders to strike down the blasphemy laws that have legitimized violence and the persecution of Pakistan’s minorities for decades. Below, Nabiha Meher Sheikh, based in Lahore comments on the issue, speaking from the voice of this convicted Christian woman (this post first appeared here):
I am Aasia and my story has revealed the death of common sense and compassion in my land. I am Aasia who cries at the demise of a once tolerant land.
I, Aasia, live in a land that puts itself on a pedestal, demanding immunity to any criticism of its warped interpretations of religion. I live in a land where everyone colludes to silence those who don’t agree with them. I live in a land where if you don’t agree with inhumane state sanctioned discriminatory practises, then your head is cut off by those who claim they are doing it in the name of a religion of peace.
I am Aasia. I believe the blasphemy law is nothing but a force to silence any voice of reason. The blasphemy law is a force of control. I do not believe you have the right to declare me a lesser person based on my religion. I do not believe you have the right to demonize me or call me unclean while claiming to practise a religion that doesn’t discriminate. I am Aasia, your ehle Kitaab, a woman any Muslim man can even legally marry. I am Aasia and I question your audacity to treat me as an outcaste.
I am Aasia for I am used as a pawn: a target used to demonize when you don’t want to listen to your own bigotry, your own hypocrisy. I am Aasia and I reject your intolerance, your hypocrisy and your infliction of your persecution complex upon me.
Forgive me while, I, Aasia, ask you why YOU think you have the right to say what you will about me, but not even tolerate a word from my perspective? I ask what gives YOU the right to judge me while insisting that I dare not judge you. Forgive me while I point out to you just how nauseating your double standards are. Forgive me while I ask you to hold up a mirror and take a long, hard look at yourself.
I am Aasia, yet another fashionable cause. Those of you who can make a difference have done nothing but give me lip service and I’m afraid it’s not good enough. As long as this law exists, Aasias will proliferate the land.
I say this because I am Aasia, the most disenfranchised of you all. If you can read this, you are probably sitting very comfortably in front of your computer screens, safe from mobs, guarded from the reality of poverty. Most of you are too busy leading your rich lives, deaf to my pleas, deaf to my cries, comfortable in your homes with your cupcakes everywhere. And I know some of you might appropriate my pain, my misery and exploit it for your own elitist benefit. I fear you will reduce my suffering into a cause that you can fight with fashion, the way you say you fight terrorism with tank tops.
I am Aasia. Silence me if you can. I am Aasia for I, too, shall not be scared to challenge discrimination against me.
The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.