Imran khan accuses Macron of maligning Islam

• Writes to Facebook seeking a ban on such statements
• Says France needs a healing touch as given by Nelson Mandela
• FO alarmed at statements of politicians justifying such acts

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday denounced French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on blasphemous caricatures, calling them “encouragement of Islamophobia”.

He was referring to comments made on Wednesday by President Macron in which he criticised Islamists and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The French president also contended that Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded recently for showing the blasphemous sketches, was “killed beca­use Islamists want our future”.

In a series of tweets, PM Khan said the sign of a leader was that he united people like former South African president Nelson Mandela.

“This is a time when President Macron could have put [a] healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation,” he said.

Mr Khan regretted that the French president had instead chosen to encourage Islamophobia by “attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists”.

“By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world,” he said, adding that, “the last thing the world wants or needs is further polarisation”.

Public statements based on ignorance will create more hate, Islamophobia and space for extremists, he said.

Writes to Facebook CEO

Later, Prime Minister Khan asked social media giant Facebook to place a ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam just as it had placed on the Holocaust.

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, PM Khan said: “I am writing to draw your attention to the growing Islamophobia that is encouraging hate, extremism and violence across the world and especially through the use of social media platforms including Facebook. I appreciate your taking the step to rightly ban any posting that criticises or questions the Holocaust, which was the culmination of the Nazi pogrom of the Jews in Germany and across Europe as Nazis spread across Europe.”

He said today we were seeing a similar pogrom against Muslims in different parts of the world.

“In India, anti-Muslim laws and measures such as CAA and NRC as well as targeted killings of Muslims and blaming Muslims for coronavirus are reflective of the abominable phenomenon of Islamophobia. In France, Islam has been associated with terrorism and publication of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and our Holy Prophet (PBUH) has been allowed,” he wrote.

“Given the rampant abuse and vilification of Muslims on social media platforms, I would ask you to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office issued a statement saying Pakistan condemned in the strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and desecration of the Holy Quran by certain irresponsible elements in some developed countries.

“We are further alarmed at highly disturbing statements by certain politicians justifying such heinous acts under the garb of freedom of expression and equating Islam with terrorism, for narrow electoral and political gains,” the statement said.

It said that under international human rights law, the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carried with it special duties and responsibilities.

The dissemination of racist ideas, defamation and ridiculing other religions, denigration of religious personalities, hate speech and incitement to violence were not allowed expressions of this fundamental freedom.

“Such illegal and Islamophobic acts fanning inter-religious hatred, hostility and confrontation are the very basis of horrendous terrorist acts like Christ Church, thereby imperiling future prospects of peace and harmony among civilisations,” the Foreign Office said.

It added that whilst having anti-blasphemy and criminal laws for sensitive issues such as denial of Holocaust, the justification by a few politicians in some western countries for insulting sentiments of Muslims, was a blatant reflection of double standards which seriously eroded their human rights credentials.

The FO said Pakistan had always supported and continued to lead international efforts for combating intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief.

“Both in our national capacity as well as part of the OIC group, we have advocated arduously for the alliance of civilisations and developing mutual understanding and respect for all religions, faiths and beliefs. We unequivocally condemn all acts of violence on the basis of religion or belief,” it added.

Prime Minister Khan, in his address at the 75th UN General Assembly session, had highlighted the recent incidents of Islamophobia and urged the international community to take all necessary steps to universally outlaw wilful provocations and incitement to hate and violence.

He also proposed to declare an international day to combat Islamophobia.

At a time of rising racism and populism, the international community must show a common resolve against xenophobia, intolerance, stigmatisation and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief. It is necessary to work together for peaceful co-existence as well as social and inter-faith harmony, the Foreign Office statement said.

Some ministers also condemned President Macron’s remarks on Twitter.

Planning Minister Asad Umar said freedom of expression was not without limits, pointing out that 16 European countries criminalise denial of the Jewish holocaust. He also observed that it was a criminal offence to insult the monarch in the United Kingdom.

“Allowing people free rein to insult the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) under the garb of freedom of expression while protecting institutions and history sacrosanct to other religious beliefs and national symbols is pure hypocrisy and condemnable,” he added.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said: “France’s foolish extremists do not hold world peace dear and they are doing unacceptable acts.”

“Respect of the Prophet (PBUH) is part of our faith. Understand this well and understand that the peace of the world is connected to recognising and understanding each others’ beliefs,” Fawad Chaudhry tweeted.

A day earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed President Macron over his policies towards Muslims, saying that the French president needed “mental checks”.

Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf called Macron’s words “irresponsible”, and said they would “increase the spread of a culture of hatred”.

Jordan’s foreign ministry said it condemned the continued publication of blasphemous caricatures under the pretext of freedom of expression and any “discriminatory and misleading attempts that seek to link Islam with terrorism”.

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