An opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner has criticised the United Nations for failing to speak out against Pakistan’s treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy against Islam since 2010.
The article, written by New Jersey-based William Mahoney, contrasts the UN’s response to France’s ban on Muslim women wearing the niqab – the UN ruled that France had “not demonstrated how the full veil presents a threat in itself for public security to justify this absolute ban” – “with its “scary silence” on the case of Asia Bibi.
“The UN seems zealous about protecting religious rights. So, why has it not issued any statements or recommendations regarding Asia Bibi?” Mahoney asks.
“Pakistan has been a member state of the UN since 1947,” he continues. “The UN maintains that one’s right to life is a human right to which everyone is entitled, without discrimination. So, why has the UN remained silent on Asia Bibi? She is a Pakistani woman whose right to life is being threatened by a severe and controversial religious law that violates her own freedom of opinion and expression as a Christian.”
He also questions the silence of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who in 2017 called for the US to end its “barbaric practice” of the death penalty.
“So, where is Guterres now?” he asks. “Does he not know about this situation? For a man so vehemently opposed to the death penalty, it is highly unusual that he has yet to utter a single word regarding Asia Bibi. If Antonio Guterres thinks it is his job to criticise the United States for the death penalty, then he should be consistent and criticise Pakistan for the same.”
Mahoney concludes: “It is disillusioning, to say the least, that the UN will readily speak up in defence of a woman’s religious right to cover her face, but remain utterly silent when a woman’s very life hangs in the balance because of her own faith. If the UN does not stand for Asia Bibi, then what on earth does it stand for?”