At a meeting held on 14th November 2018 for Sikh’s aspiring to engage with parliament at the House of Lords, one of the leading Sikh voices in Britain, Lord Singh, offered his support to the Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry and Asia Bibi.
Mr Chowdhry was invited as he has been one of the individuals who has supported the work of the Network of Sikh Organisations, for which Lord Singh is an executive director.
During the meeting, Lord Singh delivered a touching tribute to the bravery and tenacity of Asia Bibi, vocalising his support for her to receive asylum in the UK.
At the end of the seminars which also included talks from Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi – MP for Slough, Mandip Sahota – Strategist and former civil servant, Gurpal Virdi – Community Activist & former Councillor, Mr Chowdhry was introduced to Lord Singh.
Lord Singh apologised for the treatment of Asia Bibi by the UK Government and offered his support to help in any way he could to ensure that Asia Bibi received justice in Pakistan and safe asylum in a country in the West.
Mr Chowdhry took the opportunity to call for a letter of support from the Sikh community of Britain from Lord Singh, to illustrate to the UK Government that a majority of the UK populace support Asia receiving asylum in the UK.
The following day, Lord Singh, through the Network of Sikh Organisations published a statement in support of Asia Bibi being granted asylum in the UK and calling for a rethink from the UK Home Office and Foreign Office.
The text of the message said:
“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. In this regard, we cannot think of a more deserving case than that of Asia Bibi, and request the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office rethink their position.”
This message can be viewed on the NSO website (click here)
Mr Chowdhry issued a statement expressing his thanks for the show of support, saying:
“I am so pleased by the overwhelming support we have received from the Sikh and Islamic communities in the UK. Lord Singh’s heartening message to Asia Bibi demonstrates strong unity and solidarity behind Asia. The Islamic community in Britain have also come out strongly for Asia, epitomised by the fact three British Imams, Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Dr Usama Hasan called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to grant asylum to Asia.
“These messages of solidarity illustrate quite clearly that extremism can still be defeated and will not be tolerated in the UK.
It shows that Britain is still a place where persecuted minorities should be able to safely seek refuge. It illuminates that contrary to UK government fears, Asia and other persecuted people would be welcomed with open arms in the UK.
“It also demonstrates that we must continue to work together to resist extremism and that we must not capitulate to invasive extremist forces which threaten to undermine the very fabric of our liberal democracies and those values we treasure most – freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of religion.”
On 15th November even Lord Nazir Ahmed who quit the Labour Party before an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism, sent Mr Chowdhry an encouraging email detailing a letter that had been sent to the Home Secretary which included prominent Muslims calling for Asia Bibi to be given asylum. To read more about this (click here)
The letter representing a cross-section of British religious leaders from all faiths and beliefs appealed to the Britain’s historical tradition of offering asylum to those suffering religious persecution, saying:
“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.”
Rabiha Hannan, co-founder of New Horizons in British Islam, arguing that the fears that “community relations” would be “damaged” by offering Asia Bibi asylum were entirely unsubstantiated, said:
“… 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.” (click here)
British Pakistani Christians are numbered at only 17,118 in England and Wales within the 2011 Census, so advocacy and support from others of Pakistani origins is not only appreciated but very much needed. Community relations is in fact what bridges the bigotry that has led Asia Bibi to need asylum in the first place. Multi-faith communities showing common humanity and compassion for this innocent woman is a welcome show of solidarity for British Pakistani Christians.
There has been however been some criticism of human rights activists questioning the silence of high profile individuals of Pakistani origins such as Sadiq Khan, and Malala Yousafzai, whose voices could have helped Asia Bibi. However, these questions seem rather in good faith as they indicate a positive expectation from them with regards to advocacy for human rights and other Pakistani’s well-being.
Wilson Chowdhry said:
“The unexplained silence of some diaspora leaders does presence a quizzical vacuum in the Pakistani community that reduces morale of those who are disenfranchised. Given the level of contempt and hatred experienced by Asia Bibi, a women who has been exonerated of all charges, it would be expected that this obviously unwarranted behaviour has gone beyond the pale of simply calling blasphemy ‘a sensitive issue’ for Muslims.
“There is great disappointment from Pak-Christians 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.”
To be sure, Asia Bibi has stood alone for so long and her case is a watershed moment for religious minorities in Pakistan. As a simple woman has faced the worst of humanity with a peaceful and courageous repose, and this should be duly honoured.
We call on the following individuals, including our elected officials, judges, academics and all Nobel Laureates to nominate Asia Bibi for the Nobel Peace price. The instructions are as follows:
“According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, a nomination is considered valid if it is submitted by a person who falls within one of the following categories” (Click here):
|•||Members of national assemblies and national governments (cabinet members/ministers) of sovereign states as well as current heads of states|
|•||Members of The International Court of Justice in The Hague and The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague|
|•||Members of Institut de Droit International|
|•||University professors, professors emeriti and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology, and religion; university rectors and university directors (or their equivalents); directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes|
|•||Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize|
|•||Members of the main board of directors or its equivalent for organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize|
|•||Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (proposals by current members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after 1 February)|
|•||Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee|
Please stand with Asia Bibi, an innocent, persecuted Christian woman who desperately needs our help. Please donate to help Asia Bibi through our website portal and not through the petitions as donations paid via the petition go to the petition administration.
Please sign our petition calling asylum for Asia Bibi (click here)
Please sign our petition calling for termination of UK Foreign aid to Pakistan (click here)
British Pakistani Christian Association, continues to provide advocacy and humanitarian aid to Christians in Pakistan and people of Britain. We cannot do it without your help please donate by clicking (here)