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British Muslims Urge U.K. To Grant Asylum To Pakistani Christian, Challenge 'Intolerant Voices'

FILE: Leaders of Islamic political party Tehrik Labaik Ya RasoolAllah, opposed the release of Asia Bibi.
FILE: Leaders of Islamic political party Tehrik Labaik Ya RasoolAllah, opposed the release of Asia Bibi.

Prominent British Muslims, including three imams, have joined calls for Britain to offer asylum to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy.

A letter to British Home Secretary Sajid Javid asked him "to make a clear and proactive statement that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary here."

The letter, also signed by 15 members of Parliament, was made public on November 13, nearly a week after Bibi, a mother of five, was freed from prison following eight years on death row.

Pakistan's Supreme Court earlier overturned her conviction, triggering violent protests by hard-line Islamists calling for her execution.

Bibi's husband has pleaded for asylum from Western countries, saying the family was in danger.

"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," said the letter sent to Javid.

"If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged," it added.

Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad, a charge she has denied.

The Supreme Court overturned her conviction on October 31 on the grounds there was not enough evidence to support it.

In a deal with hard-line Islamists that helped calm the unrest that followed Bibi's acquittal, the Pakistani government on November 3 indicated that it will bar her from traveling abroad pending a "review" of the court's decision.

The Netherlands said this week it had recalled staff from its embassy in Islamabad after receiving threats for providing shelter to Bibi's lawyer.

The lawyer, Saiful Mulook, cited death threats in fleeing Pakistan soon after the Supreme Court's ruling. The Dutch government said it had offered him temporary shelter.