The U.K. government agency in charge of immigration has come under fire for denying political asylum to an Iranian convert to Christianity and explaining its decision on its contention that the religion is not peaceful.
The Iranian man had said in his asylum petition that he converted to Christianity because it was a “peaceful” religion.
The U.K. Home Office, which oversees immigration and passports, among other things, sent the Iranian national a letter that said the book of Revelations is “filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence,” according to the Independent.
It cited excerpts from the Bible, according to the newspaper, and added: “These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge.”
The newspaper said it reached out to the Home Office for comment and was told that the letter the asylum seeker had received did not follow its protocol for handling petitions based on religious persecution. The agency said it was trying to improve training for officers who decide religious conversion-related cases.
Legal experts are holding the case up as an example of what they say is the agency’s pattern of over-reaching to deny political asylum.
Nathan Stevens, the asylum seeker’s caseworker, tweeted: “I’ve seen a lot over the years, but even I was genuinely shocked to read this unbelievably offensive diatribe being used to justify a refusal of asylum.
“Whatever your views on faith, how can a government official arbitrarily pick bits out of a holy book and then use them to trash someone’s heartfelt reason for coming to a personal decision to follow another faith?”
Stevens said that his client is appealing the decision.
On Twitter, Stevens mentioned another asylum case to illustrate what he sees as the agency’s flawed system.
“A comment from another refusal,” he tweeted, “You affirmed in your AIR that Jesus is your savior, but then claimed that He would not be able to save you from the Iranian regime. It is therefore considered that you have no conviction in your faith and your belief in Jesus in half-hearted.”
Legal experts say the Home Office is notorious for questionable asylum denials.
Successful appeals of denied asylum petitions rose 5 percent since 2016, amounting to nearly half of cases that undergo appeal, according to The Independent.
Conor James McKinney, deputy editor of website Free Movement, told the Independent that the Home Office tries to “come up with any reason they can to refuse asylum”.
“You can see from the text of the letter that the writer is trying to pick holes in the asylum seeker’s account of their conversion to Christianity and using the Bible verses as a tool to do that,” he said, adding, “The Home Office is notorious for coming up with any reason they can to refuse asylum and this looks like a particularly creative example, but not necessarily a systemic outbreak of anti-Christian sentiment in the department.”