Sadly, offering Bibi refuge would prove controversial within a segment of the Muslim population in the UK, and around the world – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow through
The Independent Voices
Despite being freed by her country’s Supreme Court, Asia Bibi’s life is in danger. Violent mobs held the nation hostage in the aftermath of the verdict, demanding that the Pakistani Christian farm labourer, who had falsely been accused of blasphemy, be hanged.
The Pakistani government has appeared helpless in tackling the hardliners calling for her head, choosing instead a policy of appeasement. Disheartened by the government’s capitulation and afraid for his life, her lawyer has already fled to the Netherlands, and there are calls across the western world for her to be given asylum. Several countries have stepped forward to offer her sanctuary, but the UK is not one of them. Now, politicians such as Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid are urging the government to do so.
It seems likely that the reason for the UK dragging its feet is out of concerns of hostile reactions from within the Muslim population in Britain, and fear of attacks on its embassies overseas. If true, this would signal a shameful abandonment of our moral and humanitarian obligations.
Asia Bibi has lost almost a decade of her life due to religious bigotry for a crime she didn’t commit. The government could never give her back the time lost, but ensuring that she and her family live out their lives without persecution and fear of death is the very least it can do.