LAHORE, PAKISTAN – After the unprecedented acquittal of a Christian from blasphemy charges, Pakistan is bowing to pressure from hardline Islamist groups to ban her exit from the Muslim-majority country.
In an Oct. 31 judgment, Pakistan’s Supreme Court cleared Asia Bibi of insulting the Prophet in an argument with neighbors, saving her from execution and seemingly ending her eight years in prison (though she has yet to be released at the time of this report).
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws give the death penalty for insulting the prophet Muhammed and have been criticized internationally for inhibiting free speech and religious freedom. For days after the announcement, fundamentalist Islamist groups protested in streets around the country, demanding an appeal before Bibi and her family, including five children, would be allowed to seek asylum in the West. Schools and many shops remained shut from the protesters blocking highways, some with signs reading, “Our Demand: Hang the Asia.”