Blasphemy Rage: Pakistani Woman Gets Life for Burning Quran Pages

A Muslim woman was sentenced to life imprisonment in Pakistan after a court found her guilty of blasphemy by burning pages of the Quran.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam, the country’s state religion, or religious figures can be sentenced to death. While the Muslim-majority nation has yet to carry out the death penalty for blasphemy, a mere accusation can lead to riots, violence, and even mob lynchings.

Mohazib Awais, a government prosecutor, said the woman, identified as Aasiya Bibi, was arrested in 2021 on blasphemy charges after residents claimed she desecrated the Quran by burning its pages. Awais said the judge announced the verdict on March 20th in the eastern city of Lahore. He said Bibi, who has the right to appeal, denied the accusations.

A Christian woman of the same name was acquitted in 2019 after she was accused of blasphemy in 2010 and spent eight years on death row in Pakistan. The incident became a poster child for blasphemy cases in Pakistan, and she had to flee and move to Canada to avoid death threats from Islamic extremists upon her release. The case on March 20th involved a different woman.

Human rights groups in Pakistan and abroad say blasphemy allegations have often been used to settle personal scores and even intimidate religious minorities. One such case was in August 2023, when a mob attacked a Christian community in Faisalabad, Punjab province, after some members of its community were accused of blasphemy. 

Earlier this March, a 22-year-old student was sentenced to death in Punjab after being accused of blasphemy for WhatsApp messages that contained derogatory words against the Prophet Muhammad. Another teenager, aged 17, was also accused of blasphemy and was sentenced to life in prison.

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