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Humanists UK welcomes decision on Asia Bibi’s blasphemy acquittal

Asia Bibi

Humanists UK has welcomed a ruling today by the Pakistan Supreme Court to uphold the blasphemy acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has spent eight years facing the death penalty for allegedly making blasphemous comments about the prophet Muhammad.

The court’s decision to dismiss the challenge means the Pakistani mother should now be allowed to leave Pakistan and join her children in Canada where she has been offered asylum. After she was recently acquitted of blasphemy, violent protests were held across Pakistan by extremists calling for her to be hanged.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for the abolition of blasphemy offences in all countries, has welcomed Asia’s acquittal but says there is an urgent need to reform Pakistan’s barbaric blasphemy laws.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry the death penalty or life in prison, and tend to be used to target the non-religious, religious minorities, and dissenting Muslims. Though there has been an effective moratorium on carrying out the death sentence in recent years in Pakistan, dozens of people at least still face the death penalty, and furthermore those accused of blasphemy are often murdered before or after any trial takes place. This happened in 2017 to a humanist, Mashal Khan, who was murdered by fellow students at his university.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: ‘It is welcome news that Asia Bibi has finally been acquitted of blasphemy and can now seek protection abroad. But blasphemy laws in Pakistan are still amongst the harshest in the world and people face extreme sentences including the death penalty, jail, and murder if they are accused of making comments that are considered insulting to Islam – with almost no rights to the rule of law.

‘There is an urgent need to reform Pakistan’s barbaric blasphemy laws as more people will likely suffer the deadly, awful consequences that others in the country have already faced.’

Humanists UK is a founding member of the End Blasphemy Laws campaign. In August, Humanists UK expressed alarm after the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, said that limiting freedom of speech would be a priority policy for his administration, vowing to revive a campaign to impose global blasphemy laws at the United Nations.

Significant progress on blasphemy has been made recently with France, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark all having recently repealed their blasphemy laws, with the population of Ireland having recently voted to do the same. However, many countries around the world still have restrictive and harsh blasphemy laws.

NOTES:

For more information contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read our previous news item on Asia Bibi here:

https://humanism.org.uk/2018/10/31/pakistani-christian-asia-bibi-acquitted-of-blasphemy-but-pakistans-laws-still-pose-dangerous-threat/

Read more about Humanists UK’s international campaign to end blasphemy laws: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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