Make Pakistan safe for Christians urges European Member of Parliament: Ban blasphemy laws

(Photo: REUTERS / Athar Hussain)Employees of Pakistan's biggest television station Geo TV attend a protest against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority after the station's license was suspended, in Karachi May 22, 2014. Pakistan's Geo TV said it was ramping up security on Tuesday after it became the object of dozens of blasphemy accusations for playing a song during an interview with an actress.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws have long been viewed as a convenient stick for members from the overwhelming Muslim majority who might bear a grudge against a person from another faith.

This week a leading European Parliament member caused a stir when she called Pakistan's blasphemy laws to be repealed and a safe place found for Christians.

Christians make up about 1.6 percent of Pakistan's population and they live in constant fear of persecution from extremist Islamic groups in that country because of legal strictures under the draconian "blasphemy law," says Marijana Petir.

A Croatian member of the European body, she cited the treatment of imprisoned Asia Bibi when she wrote an article for EP Today, the monthly magazine of the European Parliament.

She wrote, "Asia Bibi, a woman from a small village in the Punjab province of Pakistan, caught international attention when she was charged with blasphemy under Pakistan's regressive Blasphemy Law."

Her only crime said Petir, was that she was a Christian, "and had sipped water from the same vessel as a Muslim woman of her locality, leading to an argument."

A mother of five children, Bibi was to soon realize that this seemingly innocuous incident in June 2009, would change the course of her life.

Though she denied the charge of blasphemy, by November 2010 Asia had been sentenced to death by the District Court in Pakistan. "She remains in custody still, and has appealed against her sentence," noted Petir.

The Croatian politician is known to be a fervent Catholic and she is also a member of the committee on women's rights and gender equality and has been critical of Pakistan's leadership.

"Successive Pakistani governments have allowed radicalized extremist forces to thrive, drastically reducing tolerance within society and depriving minority religious groups the right to live safely and with dignity," she wrote for the European Parliament's own news site.

"School textbooks are replete with content that inculcates religious bias in young minds, thereby preparing a future generation that will be rooted in bigotry and intolerance."

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