NBC’s Carol Grisanti and Fakhar ur Rehman report on MSNBC’s World Blog – Christian woman faces death for blasphemy:
ITTAN WALLI, Pakistan – In early November, in the dusty city of Sheikhupura in Pakistan’s heartland, Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman and mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging under the country’s blasphemy laws.
Her crime? She allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
Almost immediately, the death sentence unleashed international condemnation, and put pressure on Pakistan’s government to overturn the verdict and amend the country’s blasphemy laws – a holdover from a 19th century penal code designed to protect minority religious sects during British colonial times.
The law was radicalized during the 1980’s under the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. He imposed life sentences, even death, for blasphemy to appease the mullahs and legitimize his grip on power.
Pope Benedict XVI appealed for clemency but hard-line Islamic groups have threatened civil war if the government pardons Bibi or attempts to amend the law.