PENDLE MP Andrew Stephenson has led calls in Parliament for the world to better respect freedom of both religion and speech.
His appeal fell on the first anniversary of the death of Shabhaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities and a Christian, who was assassinated for his opposition to that country’s blasphemy laws.
Mr Stephenson said: “I met Mr Bhatti last year and found him an inspirational figure. Weeks after I met him, he was murdered for standing up for minority rights and religious freedom.”
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been heavily criticised and have been used to persecute people of all faiths, including Muslims, but mainly affect Christians.
Other high profile cases include the Punjab State Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim who was also assassinated for supporting reform of the laws, and Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row after being accused of blasphemy during a row with neighbours.
Mr Stephenson explained: “There is widespread acknowledgment that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to persecute minorities, especially Christians.
“However, they can and are being used against people of all faiths. It is in violation of international human rights laws to put someone in prison, let alone execute them, for blasphemy.
“There are many Pakistani Christians in Pendle who know of people who have been threatened with or targeted with these laws. That is why we are calling for Pakistan to urgently reform their blasphemy laws.”
Mr Stephenson’s appeal was in the form of an Early Day Motion, or EDM, which can be signed by other MPs.