Excerpt from the book “Blasphemy: A Memoir” by Asia Bibi as told to Anne-Isabelle Tollet:

I’m the victim of a cruel, collective injustice.

I’ve been locked up, handcuffed and chained, banished from the world and waiting to die. I don’t know how long I’ve got left to live. Every time my cell door opens my heart beats faster. My life is in God’s hands and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. It’s a brutal, cruel existence. But I am innocent. I’m guilty only of being presumed guilty. I’m starting to wonder whether being a Christian in Pakistan today is not just a failing, or a mark against you, but actually a crime.

But though I’m kept in a tiny, windowless cell, I want my voice and my anger to be heard. I want the whole world to know that I’m going to be hanged for helping my neighbor. I’m guilty of having shown someone sympathy. What did I do wrong? I drank water from a well belonging to Muslim women, using “their” cup, in the burning heat of the midday sun.

I, Asia Bibi, have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers. […]

“I haven’t done anything! Please! I beg you! I’ve done nothing wrong!”

The qari with his long, well-combed beard, turns to Musarat and the three women who were there on the day of the falsa harvest.

“Did she speak ill of Muslims and our holy Prophet Mohammed?”

“Yes, she insulted them,” replies Musarat, and the others join in:

“It’s true, she insulted our religion.”

“If you don’t want to die,” says the young mullah, “you must convert to Islam. Are you willing to redeem yourself by becoming a good Muslim?”

Sobbing, I reply:

“No, I don’t want to change my religion. But please believe me, I didn’t do what these women say, I didn’t insult your religion. Please have mercy on me.”

I put my hands together and plead with him. But he is unmoved.

“You’re lying! Everyone says you committed this blasphemy and that’s proof enough. Christians must comply with the law of Pakistan, which forbids any derogatory remarks about the holy Prophet. Since you won’t convert and the Prophet cannot defend himself, we shall avenge him.”

He turns on his heel and the angry crowd falls on me. I’m beaten with sticks and spat at. I think I’m going to die. Then they ask me again:

“Will you convert to a religion worthy of the name?”

“No, please, I’m a Christian, but I beg you . . . ”

And they go on beating me with the same fury as before.

I was barely conscious and could hardly feel the pain of my wounds by the time the police arrived. Two policemen threw me in their van, to cheers from the angry crowd, and a few minutes later I was in the police station in Nankana Sahib.

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