Battle with blasphemy

blasphemyREVIEW BY TIM LAM

BOOK | BLASPHEMY: THE TRUE HEART-BREAKING STORY OF THE WOMAN SENTENCED TO DEATH OVER A CUP OF WATER | ASIA BIBI

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi has been languishing on death row for the past seven years. A mother of five from an impoverished rural village, she has become an international symbol of Pakistan’s cruel blasphemy laws.

Her memoir Blasphemy chronicles the story of how a dispute at a well with her fellow farmhands turned into a high-profile case that captured global attention. It is ghost-written by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet with the help of Asia’s husband and an Urdu-English translator.

Forbidden from making direct contact with Asia, Tollet conducted interviews with her subject using notes exchanged with Asia’s husband.

Despite these limitations, the memoir vividly illustrates the human impact of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Separated from her husband and children, Asia speaks of the daily torment she experiences in her derelict, windowless cell isolated from the rest of the world.

Yet she also demonstrates remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. Like many Christians, Asia had to wrestle with moments of doubt and loneliness as she struggled to find God in the dark corners of her prison cell. The strength of Asia’s faith shines through as she draws on memories of her family and her Christian conviction to sustain her.

Blasphemy calls for interfaith unity as the path towards ending violence committed in the name of religion. Throughout her memoir, Asia reiterates it is not just religious minorities who are targeted by the blasphemy laws – Muslims, Christians and Hindus are all dehumanised by them.

The story of Asia’s imprisonment is grim and confronting, but it also carries a message of hope. Asia’s case has united Christian bishops and Muslim imams together to take up the fight to change the blasphemy laws.

At only 137 pages, Blasphemy is a quick read. Be prepared to feel anger at the injustice and brutality of a system that fails to protect the innocent, but also inspired by the courage of a woman whose faith remains strong in the face of unimaginable circumstances.

Available at: shop.abc.net.au
RRP $24.99

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