11/20/2018, 13.49
PAKISTAN
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After the imams, Sikhs also ask Britain to grant Asia Bibi asylum

Despite her release after being cleared of all blasphemy charges, she cannot leave Pakistan because of protests by radicals. The British Association of Pakistani Christians wants her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, noting the silence of prominent Muslims, like Malala.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – After an appeal last week by three well-known British imams, British Sikhs have called on the British government to grant asylum to Asia Bibi. The Christian woman was acquitted in late October of blasphemy in Pakistan but is still unable to leave the country.

In a message posted on the website of the Network of Sikh Organisations, community leaders have questioned the action of Home Affairs Minister Sajid Javid, who refuses to grant protection to the Christian mother and her family, out of fear of possible attacks in Britain and against British embassies.

The message read: "We are disappointed in the government’s decision not to grant Asia Bibi asylum. In the spirit of justice, religious freedom and defending those persecuted by extremists, Britain has a moral obligation to show the world we respect and uphold human rights and will give sanctuary to those oppressed overseas.”

All over the world, many prominent individuals have expressed their support for Asia Bibi’s release and right to leave. Conversely, the Muslim community seems to be "deaf and dumb" in the face of the woman’s sad story. Arrested in 2009, she was sentenced to death in 2010.

Among the few Muslims who spoke out in her favour, three are imams – Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Usama Hasanper – who wrote a letter to Minister Javid.

However, expressing solidarity and closeness to the Pakistani woman has led to persecution, threats and murder by radicals.

One victim of threats is Asia Bibi's lawyer who sought shelter in the Netherlands. Among the murdered we have Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic.

Still, despite threats from radicals, many activists and ordinary people have not stopped their action and support for Bibi.

One of the latest initiatives comes from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), which has launched an appeal to all the former Nobel Peace Prize laureates to put pressure on the Oslo Foundation to award the Pakistani woman the prize. The aim is not to leave Asia alone.

The BPCA also noted that some high-profile individuals connected to Pakistan, including the Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, have been silent.

BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry bemoans the “unexplained silence of some diaspora leaders” and the “vacuum in the Pakistani community that reduces morale of those who are disenfranchised."

Among Pakistani Christians, "There is great disappointment [. . .] that the clear calls for violence and hate speech are not being called out as unacceptable by these prominent members of their ethnic community who have a high level of influence."

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