In Pakistan Asai Bibi sits in a jail cell awaiting death by hanging. The charge? Blasphemy. The story? Seems Bibi, who is dirt poor and Catholic, offered her fellow field hands some water. They refused stating the water was impure. An argument ensued and Bibi was accused by the others (Muslim men) of the worst crime in Pakistan: Blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad simply for being a Christian.
According to Julie McCarthy of NPR, it all began in the summer of 2009 when in the poorest area of Pakistan where the country’s 2 percent Christian reside, Bibi the mother of 1, step-mother of 2, and wife of a brick layer defended her Catholic faith in a desert field. Because of her probable fate, her family is hiding in a safe house and she is in prison. Mobs fill the streets of Punjabi calling for her head, and the Taliban promises to kill her on sight if the government doesn’t enforce the “Anti-blasphemy law” whose punishments were introduced in the ‘80’s in order to “protect the dignity of Islamic rule.” Labeled: “Asai the Blasphemer” a crowd of men outside the prison can be heard chanting “Hang her...hang her…” The Christian minority in Pakistan withstand daily heckling, ridicule, torture, discrimination in employment, rejection by friends and family members, and in 2009, 110 paid the ultimate price, death.
Sound familiar? In 1998, a 21-year old was bullied, brutally beaten, tortured, hung on a fence and left to die near Laramie Wyoming. His name was Matthew Shepard and his crime? Being gay in the United States of America.
The parallels and similarities of 2 very different individuals proded me as I read McCarthy’s article. Both are stories of majority domination and control. Both are stories of hatred, plain and simple. Robert Frost once wrote, “The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination.”
While Asai’s and Matthew’s tales are already passé, and TV channels have already been switched; pages of the daily rags already turned, I, for one, call them heroes; true testaments and examples of standing proudly in one’s own skin.
I can only imagine what it means to truly be that brave; that bold.
To read more about Asai go to the website below.