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British imams join calls for UK to give asylum to Asia Bibi

British imams join calls for UK to give asylum to Asia Bibi

London: Three British imams have joined calls for the UK to offer asylum to Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy, BBC has reported.

The imams' call comes after former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and other politicians, urged the government to help her.

Ms Bibi was freed last week after eight years on death row, sparking violent protests in Pakistan from Islamists.

Her husband has said the family is in danger and has pleaded for asylum from the UK, US or Canada, says the report.

Prominent British Muslims, including three imams - Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Dr Usama Hasan - have written a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him "to make a clear and proactive statement that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary here".

The letter, also signed by MPs from across the political divide, goes on: "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.

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

The head of government agency the Commission for Countering Extremism also said granting Ms Bibi asylum was "right thing to do".

Sara Khan said: "This is an opportunity to send a clear message to extremists that our country will stand up for our values."

Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five was the first female non-Muslim charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. The laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam.

Asia Bibi, sometimes known as Asia Noreen, was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours the previous year. Her lawyers have denied she ever did so.

The court overturned her conviction on the grounds there was not enough evidence to support it.

Pakistan has reached a deal with Islamist groups of the country to try to stop her leaving the country to help calm the unrest which has broken out following her release.

But to take the official route to asylum, the family would have to flee Pakistan and then make their request.

Meanwhile, Canada has said talks are under way about allowing her to go there.

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