Here is yet another missed opportunity for Western officials, most notably Barack Obama. Obama could make a statement about this, saying that it didn’t matter whether she was innocent or not, but that blasphemy should not be a capital offense in a society in which free people differed in conscience on basic principles. He could, in other words, have used the Asia Bibi case as a teaching moment to show the virtues of Western pluralistic society. Of course, even to speculate on his doing something like this is to enter the realm of fantasy.
“Official: Pakistan Christian innocent of blasphemy,” by Kay Johnson for The Associated Press, November 22 (thanks to all who sent this in):
ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam is innocent, a government minister investigating the case said Monday, adding he was hopeful she would be granted a presidential pardon and be freed.
The sentence against Asia Bibi has called new attention to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which critics say is used to persecute minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal vendettas.
Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, has already spent 1 1/2 years in jail.
A court sentenced her Nov. 8 to hang after convicting her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
She says she was falsely accused by a group of village Muslim women angry with her after a dispute over whether they could share the same water bowl.
Pope Benedict XVI appealed last week for her release, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has asked for a review of the facts of the case, raising the possibility of a presidential pardon.
Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who is preparing the report for Zardari, said his preliminary investigations indicate that Bibi was wrongly accused.
“I am convinced that she is innocent and she was wrongly sentenced to death,” Bhatti said….