A Christian woman from Pakistan will find out if a death sentence she received for alleged blasphemy is to be upheld at the Supreme Court in Lahore on Thursday (13 October). Asia Bibi was first arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad. As many as 150 senior Muslim clerics have demanded the state hang Bibi.
The case began when Bibi was working in fields near her village of Itanwali in the Punjab. Bibi was sent to fetch water for her co-workers but when she returned they protested, saying that non-Muslims should not touch the water bowl. An argument broke out and some days later the Muslim women complained to a local cleric.
Following Bibi's arrest the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, for speaking out on her behalf. Mumtaz Qadri was himself executed for murder despite widespread support in Pakistan and some UK mosques.
According to the Pakistan Christian Post, 150 hardline clerics have now issued a religious decree demanding that the state execute Bibi. They also demanded the state speed up all blasphemy trials and execute all others found guilty.
Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, told The Guardian: "If Asia is acquitted, we will never be able to return to our previous life, as my wife has been labelled an infidel and an infidel doesn't deserve to survive in a society full of hatred. Too many want her dead and have put a bounty on her head."
Bibi's case highlights the difficulties experienced by religious minorities in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.In July 2016 a Lahore man said he had his hands chopped off for refusing to convert to Islam. At Easter (2016) more than 70 Christians were killed by a suicide bomber who targeted a children's park. In 2014 a Christian couple were burned alive for allegedly desecrating a Koran.