British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to stand up for religious freedom and Aasia Bibi when asked by one of her own MPs in Parliament on 31 October.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce asked during Prime Minister’s Questions, “Will the Prime Minister in particular commend the courage and integrity of [the Pakistani] 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?”
In her response, Mrs May made no mention of religious freedom and did not condemn Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws. She did not even agree with her own MP that Aasia’s acquittal had “rectified a great injustice”.
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, 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 pro-Islamic laws.
Earlier this year, May highlighted the appointment of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon as the UK’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, telling MPs 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.