Aasia Bibi arrives in Canada – a bitter-sweet day.
(Statement by the Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians)
The good news for Aasia (Noreen) Bibi, is that she will, hopefully, live a life free of the always-present possibility of injury, or worse, that she faced in Pakistan. But, it’s sad is that she was forced to leave her home-land because of the prejudice, discrimination and violence that she faced if she had continued to live there.
Upon Ms. Noreen’s acquittal by the Supreme Court of blasphemy charges in October of 2018, there were huge demonstrations by fundamentalists protesting the SC judgment, and calling for her murder. Given that her life was in danger, the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau in early November asking that she and her family be given asylum in Canada. We also circulated a public petition to the same effect at that time. Having said that, we do not take any credit for the asylum given to her – the decision was made at much higher levels – and thank the government for taking this step.
Since our inception in the early 1980’s, the CPPC has stood for secularism, equality of all regardless of gender, religious beliefs, nationality or ethnicity, for peace and against militarism and wars, for genuine democracy and for social justice and socialism.
To reiterate our views on this particular matter we want the government of Pakistan to i) generously compensate Aasia Noreen and her family for the agonies they have suffered and ii) severely punish the women who brought the false charges against her, Qari Mohammad Salim, the local mulla who turned a personal dispute into a matter of blasphemy, and the Punjab High Court judge who convicted her to death on flimsy grounds. Fundamentalist/terrorist organizations must be strictly banned, as must be any propaganda against religious minorities in the mainstream or the social media.
Pakistan should get rid of the ‘Blasphemy Laws’; the approximately 1,400 people who are in jails for blasphemy should be released forthwith. Over sixty people have been extra-judiciously murder on the same accusation. The government should compensate their families and punish their killers.
Pakistan should become a secular country where religion and state are separate. If nothing else, the examples of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan (at least since General Zia-ul Haq), Afghanistan under the Mujahideen/Taliban and Iran since Khomeini make this clear. People should have the freedom of religious belief – as long as it is not socially injurious. There should also be freedom not to believe.
The efforts to weaken secularism and growing prejudice against Muslims and immigrants in the west, including Canada, by right-wing forces must be combatted.
Religion is used by ruling elites to divide people. We must reject divisiveness and strive for unity of all.