Three British imams have called on the British government to offer asylum to Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman recently freed after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy.
The BBC reported that the three prominent Muslim leaders, Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Dr. Usama Hasan, have written a letter to British Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking that Bibi be offered sanctuary in the UK.
Since the announcement of her acquittal on October 31 by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, thousands of extremists have joined in protests in Pakistan’s cities, raising concerns for Bibi’s security.
Bibi is believed to be in an undisclosed location outside of Islamabad, after the Pakistani government denied rumors that she had left the country.
“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,” read the letter, which was also signed by Members of Parliament.
“If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged,” it continued.
The letter from the imams follows reports that the British government had refused Bibi’s appeal for asylum out of fear of civil unrest from angry Muslim extremists.
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said that while British leaders had offered to help they had stopped short of offering a safe haven, reported The Telegraph.
“Britain was concerned about potential unrest in the country, attacks on embassies and civilians, said Chowdry.
“They have not offered automatic asylum, whereas several countries have now come forward. They won’t be coming to Britain. The family will definitely not be coming to Britain,” he said.
He said Britain was “being helpful,” but that it was “an enduring shame that a country with such a lauded history of helping refugees and asylum seekers, that when the Asia Bibi case has come before them, they haven’t been as generous as they have for many victims in the past.”
Bibi was convicted in 2010 for insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument with her neighbors in which she was beaten with sticks almost to the point of unconsciousness and later arrested and jailed. In its ruling overturning her death sentence last month, the judges wrote that the case against Bibi violated an important tenet of Islam by failing to respect the faith of Christians.
“The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had declared that Christians, all of them, were his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant,” read the ruling.
Bibi’s case had prompted international condemnation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis were among those who called on the government to reverse the sentence.
The case has sparked clashes between hardline Muslims and more moderate politicians in Pakistan. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and the Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, were both murdered for calling for Bibi’s acquittal and for the reform of the blasphemy laws.