Another radical Pakistani cleric who supports the killing of Christians accused of 'blasphemy' has been granted a visa to speak at a UK mosque, despite concerns having been raised with the UK Home Office about him before his arrival. This comes just weeks after three archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused visas to attend the consecration of the new Syriac Orthodox cathedral in London.
Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri had been booked to speak at a mosque in Falkirk, Scotland this week. However, an investigation by Scottish newspaper, Sunday Post revealed that his speeches were so inflammatory that he has been banned in Karachi, Pakistan where authorities described him as acting in a manner “prejudicial to public safety and maintenance of public order”.
As with the two extremists granted UK visas this summer, the cleric had been prominent in the violent protests in Pakistan following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri for the murder of liberal Muslim politician Salman Taseer, murdered because he spoke up for Christian mother Aasia Bibi who is on death row after being falsely accused of blasphemy against Muhammad. Mr Taseer had also called for reform of Pakistan’s 'blasphemy laws'. The protests against Mumtaz Qadri’s execution called for the immediate killing of Aasia Bibi as well as calling for Mumtaz Qadri to be declared a “national hero” for killing someone opposed to the 'blasphemy laws'. Mumtaz Qadri’s actions also inspired Bradford taxi driver, Tanveer Ahmed, to murder Ahmadiyya shopkeeper, Asad Shah, in Glasgow earlier this year.
The Sunday Post quoted a source in Pakistan as saying, “It’s amazing the British authorities are allowing someone to spout this nonsense in the UK – especially since he’s banned in Pakistan.”
Annie Wells MSP, the Conservative spokesman on Equalities in the Scottish parliament said, “If this individual is deemed too extreme for Pakistan, then that tells you all you need to know about his views,” adding, “There’s no place for this kind of hate preaching in Scotland, and we shouldn’t tolerate it.”
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said, “I’m amazed that somebody can be banned in Karachi but get entry clearance to the UK. “The Home Office has got to stop hiding behind the line it does not comment on individual cases because this is a real issue for everyone in the UK.”
The case highlights the contrast Barnabas Fund drew two weeks ago between the three archbishops from Iraq and Syria who were denied UK visas to attend a cathedral consecration, while Islamic clerics supporting Pakistan’s 'blasphemy laws' and the killing of Christians were granted UK visas for a preaching tour this summer. This was by no means an isolated case. Other Christian leaders from areas where the church is persecuted have also recently been denied UK visas for short pastoral or speaking visits. As we reported last week, these include two bishops from Sudan whose visas were refused until Lambeth Palace applied pressure on the Home Office.
This disparity is scandalous.
As we have said before civil servants not ministers make decisions on visas, but ministers need to root out this problem. Over the last week a number of our supporters who have raised this issue with their MPs have received responses, written for ministers by their civil servants, saying, "All these applications are considered on their individual merits, in line with official UK immigration rules and guidance." This simply isn’t good enough. If this is correct then clearly the guidance is wrong and ministers urgently need to change it. If, however, as we suspect, the problem lies with civil servants making these decisions, then ministers, who are perhaps embarrassed by the situation, urgently need to set up a review to deal with the issue.