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Freedom of Religion or Belief — [Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence) 2:30 pm, 12th March 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, lengthy as it was. I appreciate that he did not have the chance to speak as he had hoped. I have had a long dealing with the Ahmadi Muslim community —as he knows, I represent a Leeds constituency—and we have had many debates in this place too. I thank him for informing the House of his personal experience, and I am delighted that we at last have a member of his community as a Member of Parliament. I would rather it was a Labour Member, but I am delighted that he is here at all, which is excellent.

Let me quickly finish the points I was going to make so the Minister can wind up the debate. The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, said in August 1947:

“We are all equal citizens of one State.”

The experience of Imran Ahmad Khan shows that that is not the case. Of course we know the history of Asia Bibi, who was mentioned earlier. It is a great shame that the UK Government denied her asylum, although I am grateful to the Canadian Government for doing so. Ahmadi Muslims are denied citizenship rights in Pakistan and, as we heard at first hand, face persecution in other majority Muslim countries such as Algeria, and of course in the UK in 2016, tragically, Asad Shah was stabbed to death in his Glasgow shop.

I will conclude by quoting Lord Ahmad, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the other place. He said:

“The persecution of individuals based on their religion or belief remains of profound concern to the United Kingdom. The freedom to practise, change or share one’s faith or belief without discrimination or violent opposition is a fundamental human right, and the UK Government are committed to defending this human right and promoting respect and tolerance between religious communities.”—[Official Report, 17 July 2017;
Vol. 627, c. 5P.]

I am delighted that he said that, and the Opposition agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. I wait to hear what the Minister has to say.