Three British imams have slammed the UK government for refusing to grant a Pakistani Christian woman asylum following her Supreme Court acquittal on charges of blasphemy. Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Dr. Usama Hasan wrote a letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid urging him “to make a clear and proactive statement that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary here.” This comes after the British government allegedly expressed “security concerns” if it was to issue Bibi and her family with residence permit to live in Britain as refugees.
“We are confident that action to ensure Asia Bibi and her family are safe would be very widely welcomed by most people in Britain, across every faith in our society,” the letter continued, adding that “if there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged.”
The head of government agency the Commission for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan, also noted that granting the 53-year-old asylum would be the “right thing to do.”
“This is an opportunity to send a clear message to extremists that our country will stand up for our values,” Khan told the BBC. Several senior British politicians have called on the government to grant Bibi safe passage into the United Kingdom, after her conviction was quashed by the Pakistani Supreme Court. Though she is now free, Bibi remains under armed guard at an undisclosed location in Islamabad as radicals continue to call for her execution.
The UK’s Foreign Office, which has refused to comment on the case, has come under increased scrutiny for its sluggish response, and is facing accusations that it has become influenced by the threats of a “mob.”
Disturbing protests continue in #Pakistan. Islamists took to the streets demanding the hanging of #AsiaBibi the Christian woman who served 9 yrs in jail for drinking water out of the same cup as her Muslim co-workers. A clash between extremists & humanity. pic.twitter.com/UDKGUPMp8f
— Iraqi Christian HRC (@iraqschristians) November 10, 2018
Indeed, according to the Guardian, foreign affairs select committee chair, Tom Tugendhat, yesterday asked the Foreign Office permanent secretary, Sir Simon McDonald, whether the episode “does not raise the question that either staff should be withdrawn or security increased or otherwise UK policy is effectively dictated to by a mob?” Tugendhat added that the saga was “one of the clearest examples of free conscience being challenged today.”
But Mcdonald insisted that arranging Bibi’s safe escape and settlement in another willing country would be the best way to go. “If the objective is to protect life and some other country can provide some more complete safe harbour, why should the UK not be open to working with that country?” he said.
Several other British and European politicians have criticized this strategy as the UK government “washing its hands” of Bibi, despite her grave predicament.
“It is immoral that Britain will allow thousands of illegal economic migrants to come into our country pretending to be refugees in need of asylum, and then bar Asia, a young woman in danger of the most terrible mob death because she is a believing Christian,” unaffiliated MEP, Steven Wolf, told Faithwire. “If Asia cannot claim asylum in Britain then Britain must ask itself what sort of country have we become?”
The former minister for International Development, the Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne also pledged his support for Bibi, telling Faithwire that he and other colleagues had “written to the PM with other colleagues asking for Asia Bibi to be given asylum here.”
Many politicians from across the aisle agreed.
“Given the clear inability of this new Pakistani government of Imran Khan to stop these mobs from intimidating and killing Christians in Pakistan, is it not time to reassess our relations with Pakistan?” said senior Labour MP Mike Gapes. “There are big concerns if religious minorities in Pakistan are not safe.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan initially appeared stoic and strong, firmly appealing for calm following the explosive protests that erupted among the Islamist fanatics who were enraged by the courts sweeping away of the decade-old blasphemy charges leveled against Bibi.
Then, he caved, offering the radical, terror-affiliated political group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) a deal – the Supreme Court ruling would have to remain, but Bibi would not be able to flee the country. It was, in effect, a second signing of Asia’s death warrant. In a country where politicians have been shot dead in broad daylight for speaking out publicly against the nation’s draconian blasphemy laws, Bibi would now become a sitting duck and an almost certain victim of Pakistan’s culture of savage vigilantism.
Released last week from her squalid prison in Punjab province, Bibi was transported to an undisclosed location in Islamabad as various governments continue to figure out a way of getting her away from the thousands-strong, blood-thirsty Islamists. The ability to fly abroad remains a key factor in this horrifying case, as Bibi attempts to seek asylum in the West. So far, Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih has appealed for help from several nations including the UK, US, Canada, with no success.
The government has issued mixed messages about Bibi’s ability to travel abroad, initially saying that it had struck a deal with radical clerics and ordered that the embattled woman is put on a no-fly list. More recently, however, a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Office suggested that Bibi was free to leave.
Bibi’s husband Sadiq Masih has said the family is in grave danger and has made several pleas for asylum in the UK, US and Canada. So far, there have been no official offers of asylum from any of those three nations.