Blasphemy – by Asia Bibi and Anne-Isabelle Tollett (2013)

Blasphemy

It wasn’t too far in our country’s past that we had separate drinking fountains for black people and white people. It was a disgraceful part of United States history that has been left behind. The same cannot be said for Pakistan, where Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for using the same drinking cup as the Muslim women in her community in 2009.

Asia and her husband Ashiq were the only Christians in their village, the rest of the residents being Muslim. However, they were respectful of the dominant religion, and had always lived peaceably with their neighbors. Then came the day that Asia was picking falsa berries with a group of women, and one woman objected to her having used the common water cup for a drink. All hell broke loose at that point, and Asia soon found herself in prison on trumped-up charges of blasphemy against Muhammad. Her captors said that if she gave up her allegiance to Jesus and converted to Islam, her life would be spared. She refused to renounce Jesus Christ.

In 2010 Asia was sentenced to be hanged for her crime, despite protesting her innocence. Her family had to go into hiding, for when one person is charged with blasphemy, the entire family is considered guilty. People all over the world protested her arrest, diplomats tried to negotiate her release, and the Pope begged the Pakistani government to release her. It has been eight years, and Asia still sits on death row, her life in limbo. Several people who have attempted to help her have been assassinated.

An international reporter affiliated with France 24, Anne-Isabelle Tollet, was moved to write a book about Asia’s imprisonment. It was a difficult task, as Asia could not read or write, and only the lawyer and husband were allowed to visit. So the lawyer would read questions to Asia, she would verbally answer, then the lawyer would convey them to Anne-Isabelle, who wrote them down. The book was finished and published in 2011, then re-published in 2012 and 2013.

It is simply appalling to think that in this day and age, people can be executed simply for the beliefs of their heart. Asia was not hurting anyone, nor was her family. Yet she will, in all likelihood, die of malnutrition or illness in prison. Would most Americans be willing to hold to their religious beliefs if faced with the hangman’s noose? I think not.

Advertisements

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

reluctant-fundamentalist

 

The story is told in one long monologue. A young Pakistani man, Changez, strikes up a conversation with a traveling American man at a cafe in Lahore. It’s actually a one-way conversation, as it appears that the American barely speaks a word during the evening. Changez is tormented in his mind, and needs to pour out his thoughts to someone. He ends up telling his entire life story to the stranger in the cafe.

Although born in Pakistan, Changez manages to make his dreams come true by being admitted to Princeton University in the U.S., and later being hired by a prestigious company. He absolutely loves life in New York City, and falls in love with an American woman, Erica. He considers himself almost American. Then comes the terrorist attack on the twin towers. Suddenly he is looked upon with suspicion and distrust because of his nationality.

The book shows well the inner turmoil of a person who experiences life in the United States, and then has to return to his homeland. Changez has tasted the goodness of the American culture, then has to deal with the bitter hatred coming from the same group of people. The irony is, of course, that he begins to resent and hate them too. Prejudice and racism turn into a vicious circle that just goes on and on, and always ends as a sad story.