Last month the British Pakistani Christian Association held a protest outside the Pakistani Embassy demanding freedom for Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman whose recent death sentence for blasphemy has provoked international revulsion (since exacerbated by the murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who had opposed the sentence). The BPCA’s Wilson Chowdhry wrote up an account of the protest, which has only now come to my attention:
"Our protest on Saturday though small was very effective. Since distributing leaflets and informing the BBC, Premier Christian Radio and other media of our protest, we have noted that there have been an additional 200 signatures to our electronic petition. Directly after the protest we noted 6 new comments on our blog and last night on the BBC 10 O’clock News (closer to 10:15), for the first time ever, a Pakistani Christian Minority concern featured on mainstream news.
That’s right a full 5 minute feature including an interview with Ashiq Masih the husband of Asia ensued. We have been plugging the BBC with stories since the outset of the scandal and cascaded Ashiq’s contact details (via solicitors working on the Asia Bibi Appeal) to BBC Reporters) and believe wholeheartedly that our group has been a main trigger for the BBC coverage, that occurred last night…"
Five guest speakers are listed:
•Stephen Green (Christian Voice)
•Alan Craig (Leader Christian Peoples Alliance)
•Ranbir Singh (Hindu Human Rights Group)
•Ruby Akhtar (Christian Wing EDL)
•Samuel Noel (Heston URDU Fellowship- Southall Baptist Church)
"My birth place was Pakistan and alway’s been Christian.
Islam is Evil and every muslim is evil indeed.
Makind teach every muslim must kill Christians,Jews and rest of the Nation.
We christian must join hand and show muslims that west belongs to Lord JESUS and his followers only."
Akhtar has a curious background: in 2008 she appeared in a newspaper story as a “homeless disabled woman” let down by her local council and reportedly coping with a number of medical conditions including, by her own account, Down’s Syndrome; in June 2010 she was convicted of running an unregulated immigration advice business. She has also had various other business interests; her website for these has now gone, although a YouTube video remains.
Chowdhry explained the EDL presence at the protest in response to expressions of dismay in the comments:
"The BPCA held a peaceful protest and without invite 10 members of the EDL joined us. One of whom is a Pakistani Christian and heads their Pakistani Christian Wing. All the demonstrators were peaceful and when we asked the Police if the group was high risk or racist they did not believe so. The 10 members that joined us all helped with setting up and deconstruct of our event. No wrong words were spoken and overall their demeanour and support was much appreciated. It was the Christian wing and Jewish Wing of the EDL that joined us and as such we could not see how there presence conflicted with our event. Moreover, they joined us in our chant for freedom of Asia Bibi and signed our petition and did not use our event to promote any personal agenda. We will not be inviting EDL to our next protest, however if they choose to come and demonstrate peacefully with us we will have no issue. These words are spoken having discussed the group in detail with the Met police."
"I am sure elements of the group are far right and I understand your reservations. However, if anyone wants to join our peaceful protest and join in with our shout for change in Pakistan. We will allow them to dos so. The EDL will not get a direct invite, however, any members who are in sypathy with our concerns are free to join. Any rabble rousers will be controlled by the Police and removed from the protest."
l blogged on the EDL “Jewish Division” here.
Chowdhry’s strategy appears to be to get as broad a base of support as possible: he is himself an activist with the progressive Green Party, and the BPCA has the support of Green MEP Jean Lambert.