Theresa May sidesteps ‘blasphemy’ criticism in response to Aasia Bibi
Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the death penalty but made no mention of religious freedom and did not condemn Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws, in her first response to the Supreme Court exoneration of Aasia Bibi.
Conservative Parliamentarian Fiona Bruce asked the Prime Minister to “commend the courage and integrity of [the] chief justice … for the message he has sent out regarding religious freedom for those of all faiths and none in delivering this judgement, setting Aasia free and rectifying a great injustice?”
Mrs May replied that the news would be “welcome” for Aasia’s family and those in Pakistan and around the world who had campaigned for her release. She then stated, “Our longstanding position on the death penalty is well known. We call for its abolition, globally.”
In July 2018, Mrs May asserted in Parliament that the UK government stands “with persecuted Christians all over the world and will continue to support them”. But when presented with the opportunity to do so, the Prime Minister failed to even acknowledge that the death sentence which has hung over Aasia Bibi for eight years was a false accusation motivated by religious prejudice and empowered by discriminatory Islamic laws.
Earlier this year, May appointed Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon as the UK’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She told members of Parliament that he will be “working with other countries to encourage them to recognise the importance of allowing people to have the freedom to practise their religion and beliefs in peace and security”.
If the Prime Minister and the UK government are truly determined to protect religious freedom, they can begin by standing alongside Aasia Bibi.