Wilson Chowdhry and Caroline Wyatt head of BBC's Religious Affairs Team
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Today Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, was interviewed by Caroline Wyatt of the BBC on the subject of converts from Islam to Christianity and the violence and hatred they can be subjected too.
The was triggered by a news story about 'safe havens' being offered by Christian Concern a group that the BPCA has partnered with on several projects, who are now offering protected shelter and relocation assistance to 1000's of Muslim converts to Christianity.
Wilson Chowdhry described the awful testimony of Sofia Hayat a Catholic Christian and Bollywood actress, who was shown her potential husband at the tender age of 13, during a family trip to Pakistan. Wilson met Sofia Hayat during an interview on BBC Asia Network's Nihal Show, and she later performed at the Redbridge Carnival which Mr Chowdhry event managed.
Sofia has become a stronger career woman since leaving Islam after escaping kidnap by her own family, at the knife point of her own brother. After her escape her mother had threatened to hire a hitman to kill her, however police intervention stopped any further violence.
In another case Sophia Allam spoke of how her father told her she was worth no more then the "muck on his shoes" for converting. She was referred to as a Kafir a derogatory name for non-Muslims and was told that the penalty for conversion would be death. She left home after a period of severe bullying and violence and still does not believe that her parents were extremists, believing that this hard line approach on conversion is fairly uniform throughout adherents to Islam.
Ms Allam's story was published in the wake of the killing of British Teacher Daud Hassan Ali in 2006. The former Birmingham School teacher had started a Christian School in Somalia, when he was shot by militia group Shabab in his residences within the school. It is believed he was targeted by the group for his conversion.
The killing of Mr Ali triggered a study on the position held by British Muslims, by think tank 'Policy Exchange' on apostasy, in 2007. They discovered that out of 2000 Muslim's in the UK interviewed, 36% of them supported the notion of death for conversion. Sofia Allam believed that hard-line stances on apostasy had hardened over the previous 10 years dating back from that report. Her view was echoed in the report that revealed a third of 16-24-year-olds believed execution was a just reward for conversion, whilst less then a fifth of Muslims above 55 held the same view.
Mariam Namazie Leader of the 'Council of Ex-Muslim's' when interviewed by the Daily telegraph in 2007 described how she believed a large proportion of Honour killings are actually vengeance for converting out of Islam.
Mr Chowdhry believe's Britain's response to growing extremism within this country have exacerbated the problem. he said;"Despite the 7/7 attack and the uncovering of Operation Trojan Horse" in Birmingham Schools, little has been done to stem the inculcation of extremist ideology amongst younger Muslims. Sharia courts (though without legal power), have been allowed in this country despite several high profile campaigns such as 'One law for all.' This send out mixed messages and destroys unity.
Mr Chowdhry suggested that interfaith harmony engagement on that which unites faith such as the concept of universal love and charity, would be a starting point for better understanding between Christians and Muslims. Mr Chowdhry provided examples such as the parables and teaching of Christ that promote love for one another, and Mohammed's forgiveness for the woman at Queraish who threw litter at him, as examples of kindness mutual to both faiths.
Mr Chowdhry, believes that a study of the safety of apostates and those who have formerly been in mixed-faith relationships is overdue. He said;
"If the UK is serious in it's commitment to the UN's International conventions on Human rights, especially those referring to freedom of religion, then quite simply, it must safeguard converts and those leaving mixed faith relationships from bullying, harassment and being killed."