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Asia Bibi's Muslim lawyer to speak on freedom of religion at Welsh church

by Heather Preston

The Muslim lawyer who saved a condemned Christian woman from execution in Pakistan is visiting the UK to highlight the challenges faced by religious minorities there and those who represent them.

Saif ul Malook defended Asia Bibi after she was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 and spent eight years in prison. 

In the Islamic majority country of Pakistan, blasphemy is a crime punishable by death.  

Christians are a minority there, making up just two per cent of the population.

Under Malook's representation, Bibi was acquitted and subsequently reunited with her family in 2019.

By defending a Christian accused of heresy against the prophet Muhammad, Malook was subjected to a number of death threats himself.

Malook will be speaking at St Edmund's Church, Crickhowell on Sunday afternoon about freedom of belief and the challenges lawyers face defending victims of blasphemy law.

Rector of St Edmunds, Rev Rana Khan tells Premier attorney's in Pakistan face great danger: "Some [lawyers] have already been killed. And those judges who gave justice by acquitting those accused of blasphemy law, they were killed in Pakistan.

"Malook was a man who made it possible that Asia was able to be free. She is safe in Canada now, but he himself took his life under significant danger.

"He is a brave and courageous man, by speaking for someone with whom he doesn't share his faith. He is a Muslim, but on the other hand, he is very much inspired by stories of all those people who speak for others."

In 2011, Pakistan's Minorities Minister Shabaz Bhatti, a fellow Christian who spoke out in defence of Asia was assassinated en route to work.

Khan explains why Malooks' visit is significant:

"It's important for us to know what's going on in other parts of the world. Sometimes we take it for granted we have freedom here, to a large extent, to exercise and express our faith, but in many parts of the world, especially Christians are under enormous pressure and they are not able to express what they believe. It's important for us to keep our brothers and sisters and all those who are victim of religious freedom, intolerance [in our prayers]. 

Pakistan remains at number 5 on the Open Doors World Watch list of countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Despite the acquittal and release of Asia Bibi in 2019, Christians continue to receive death sentences under the country's notorious blasphemy laws, with a Pakistani court sentencing two brothers, Qaisar and Amoon Ayub, to death for allegedly posting 'disrespectful material' online. 


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