One of Ireland’s leading Islamic clerics has called for the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who has been tried for blasphemy.
“I call for her release and I believe that she should be released. This is the right thing to do according to Islamic teaching,” Shayk Dr Umar Al-Qadri told The Irish Catholic.
Asia Bibi was first sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, and her case has been on appeal since. Pakistan’s Supreme Court reached a final verdict on the case earlier this month, but the court has reserved its verdict.
Dr Al-Qadri, a member of a Pakistani Muslim family and chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy law as against Islamic teaching.
“When it comes to Asia Bibi’s case, I have personally and publicly spoken for her release, I have called for her release, and I have in fact written an article a year or so ago that says there is no death penalty in Islam for someone who is not a Muslim,” he said.
“Asia Bibi is a case where the lady is denying that she committed blasphemy, and based on that it would be sufficient for the court to release her, but unfortunately that particular law, the blasphemy law in Pakistan, does not represent the true Islamic teaching,” he continued, adding that the law had originally been introduced under pressure from extremist groups.
He offered his support to any organisations calling for Ms Bibi’s release, saying that he would be involved in any events calling for this.
His comments come against the background of an appeal from Aid to the Church in Need for Pakistani Muslims in Britain and Ireland to speak out about Ms Bibi’s plight, and to call for Pakistan to offer religious freedoms comparable to those enjoyed by Muslims in the west.
The organisation also called for the Government to apply moral leverage through the European Union to persuade Pakistan to protect Christians in the country. Asked what the Government is currently doing about her case, however, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs merely said that “the Department, including through Embassy Ankara which is accredited to Pakistan, continues to monitor the case of Ms Asia Bibi”.