Peter Tatchell backs Asia Bibi petition

Published 28 February 2014
Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi is facing death for blasphemy

The Church and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell may not see eye to eye on all things, but one thing they do share is a desire to see the end of the blasphemy law's tyranny in Pakistan.

Tatchell tweeted his support today for Christian mother Asia Bibi, who has spent the last four years in prison after being accused of blasphemy by colleagues while working on a Muslim farm in Sheikhupura, Punjab.

She was sentenced to death in 2010 and has since been fighting for her freedom and her life in an arduous appeals process.

In his tweet today, Tatchell asked his 43,000 followers to take action and support Asia Bibi by signing a petition being run by the Global Minorities Alliance.

The Glasgow-based human rights organisation is aiming to collect 500,000 signatures before handing the petition in to the Pakistani Consulate in the city.

It is not the first time Tatchell has spoken out about the human rights situation in Pakistan. In 2012, he said the British government should not send any aid money to the country because of the extent of human rights abuses. In this instance, he was speaking specifically on the forced marriages of young girls.

Asia Bibi is just one of many victims of Pakistan's blasphemy laws that Christians have been campaigning against for years.

They say Christians and other religious minorities are falsely accused of blasphemy by Muslims looking to settle vendettas, appropriate their property, or force them out of business.

A claim of blasphemy often has devastating consequences for the accused, with mobs seeking their own rough justice by damaging their homes or property, assaulting them, or even killing them.

If they are convicted, they face execution or spending the rest of their life in prison. 

It is not only Christians who are voicing alarm over the unjust laws, as secularists are also actively campaigning against them.

The chair of the Scottish Secular Society, Caroline Lynch, recently launched a petition to save Muhammad Asghar, a 68-year-old from Edinburgh, who has been convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan despite suffering from schizophrenia.

The petition calls on David Cameron and Alex Salmond to intervene "in the strongest possible terms" to save Asghar and has so far gathered over 29,000 signatures in support. 

Ms Lynch said in the accompanying statement to the petition: "I ... started this petition because secularists believe in freedom of speech and faith.  We feel that no one should suffer persecution for their beliefs, and blasphemy is an affront to human rights."

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