Prime Minister Imran Khan said yesterday that French President Emmanuel Macron has “attacked Islam” by encouraging the display of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Khan’s comments come days after Macron paid tribute to a French history teacher beheaded by a radical who wanted to avenge the use of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a class on freedom of expression.
“Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, incl his own citizens, through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam & our Prophet PBUH,” Khan said on Twitter.
Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as blasphemous. Macron said the teacher was a hero and that Islamists were a threat to the country.
Khan said Macron could have shown a “healing touch” to deny space to extremists but 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”.
France has in recent years witnessed a series of violent attacks by militants, including the 2015 Charlie Hebdo killings and bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan theatre and sites around Paris that killed 130 people.
“By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked & hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe & across the world,” Khan added.
Khan’s comments follow a similar broadside fired by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan against Macron, following which France recalled its ambassador from Ankara.
The cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), first published in 2005 by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, have stirred outrage and violent protests in Pakistan.
There were more protests last month when the cartoons were re-published by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The prime minister yesterday also wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking the social media platform to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam similar to the one that has been put in place for Holocaust.
“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,” Khan wrote to Zuckerberg.
“However, today we are seeing a similar pogrom against Muslims in different parts of the world. Unfortunately, in some states, Muslims are being denied their citizenship rights and their democratic personal choices from dress to worship,” he said.
“In France, Islam has been associated with terrorism and publication of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and our Holy Prophet (PBUH) has been allowed. This will lead to further polarisation and marginalisation of Muslims in France. How will the French distinguish between radical extremist Muslim citizens and the mainstream Muslim citizenry of Islam? We have seen how marginalisation inevitably leads to extremism — something the world does not need,” he added.
“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. The message of hate must be banned in total — one cannot send a message that while hate messages against some are unacceptable, these are acceptable against others. Nor should the world have to wait for a pogrom against Muslims, to be completed before Islamophobia is banned. This in itself is reflective of prejudice and bias that will encourage further radicalisation,” the Pakistani leader pointed out.
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