Today, New Horizons in British Islam has sent a joint letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid about Asia Bibi.
Prominent British Muslims, including three Imams, have led new calls today for the UK to offer asylum to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan.
In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, they urge him ‘to make a clear and proactive statement that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary here.’ The signatories add that they 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,’ and that ‘If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged.’
Signatories to the letter include Imam Qari Asim, Imam Mamadou Bocoum and Imam Dr Usama Hasan, as well as representatives from the Association of British Muslims, New Horizons in British Islam, Faith Matters, Muslim Council of Wales and Open My Mosque. Cross-party MPs Stephen Crabb, Liam Byrne, Ed Davey and Nigel Dodds have also signed the letter (full text + signatories below).
Rabiha Hannan, co-founder of New Horizons in British Islam, said:
"The idea that granting asylum to Asia Bibi would damage community relations is unfounded. On the contrary, the case offers a chance to show how we can work together for our common values and respect for free speech. If anything could damage community relations, it would be letting this wrong-headed idea take hold that we should let fear of extremists dictate our policies."
Zehra Zaidi, a former Tory parliamentary candidate and signatory to the letter, said:
"As someone with a track record of working on protecting religious freedoms, including Christian and Muslim minorities, I know that Asia Bibi and her family would be welcomed and supported in rebuilding their lives in Britain. We all witnessed how ethnic minorities in Britain campaigned against the atrocities being committed by ISIS against Iraq’s Christian and Yezidi minorities and fundraised for relief efforts. Work is undertaken in every region of Britain on tolerance and the protection of religious freedoms, led often by our ethnic communities. The Government should make it clear that any extreme voices will not be allowed to have any influence in this matter."
The letter to Home Secretary reads:
Asia Bibi's life is in danger in Pakistan, where violent mobs are calling for her execution following her acquittal by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy trial.
Britain's commitment to freedom of religious expression is one of our most important values. This is especially valued by minority faiths in our society. Its foundation is respect for the beliefs of others, of all faiths and none. This country has a long tradition of offering protection, stretching back to the Huguenots. We should seek to act in this case too.
It is essential that there is strong international pressure to ensure the Pakistani government allows Ms Bibi to leave for a place of safety if she wishes to do so. We call on you to make a clear and proactive statement, that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary here. Many other governments may wish to make a similar offer: we wish to see our government step up and show leadership.
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. If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged.
The real threat to good community relationships in Britain would arise from a failure to stand for and act upon the values we should all share.
- Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
- Imam Qari Asim
- Imam Mamadou Bocoum
- Imam Dr Usama Hasan
- Liam Byrne MP (Labour)
- Maria Caulfield MP (Conservative)
- Stephen Crabb MP (Conservative)
- Ed Davey MP (LibDem, Home Affairs spokesperson)
- Nigel Dodds MP (DUP)
- Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP (DUP)
- Steve Double MP (Conservative)
- Kate Green MP (Labour)
- Christine Jardine MP (LibDem, Foreign Affairs spokesperson)
- Stephen Kerr MP (Conservative)
- Ian Paisley MP (DUP)
- Gary Streeter MP (Conservative), Chair of Christians in Parliament
- Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP (Labour)
- Mohammed Abbasi, Association of British Muslims
- Arshad Ashraf, British Muslim TV
- Akeela Ahmed, Founder, She Speaks We Hear.
- Rashad Ali, Institute of Strategic Dialogue
- Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Association of British Muslims
- Mohammed Abdul Aziz
- Dr Ali-Reza Bhojani, University of Nottingham
- Mustafa Field MBE Faiths Forum for London
- Stephen Hale, Refugee Action
- Rabiha Hannan, New Horizons in British Islam
- Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE DL MPhil Association of British Muslims
- Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam
- Sunder Katwala, British Future
- Omar Khan, Runnymede Trust
- Saleem Kidwai, Muslim Council of Wales
- Dr David Landrum, Director of Advocacy, Evangelical Alliance
- Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate
- Rabia Basri Mirza, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
- Prof Tariq Modood, University of Bristol MBE FBA
- Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI, Faith Matters,
- Anita Nayyar Co Founder Open My Mosque
- Rana Shama Nazir, British Kashmiri Women Council
- Onjali Rauf, founder, Making Herstory
- Matthew Scott, barrister, Pump Court Chambers
- Julie Siddiqi, gender equality campaigner
- Naved Siddiqi, New Horizons in British Islam
- Jasvir Singh, Chair, City Sikhs
- Satbir Singh, JCWI
- Shahien Taj OBE, Henna Foundation
- Shavanah Taj, Welsh Secretary, PCS Union
- Zehra Zaidi, Director, Cities of Hope