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Imran Khan Reiterates Call for Global Unity Against Islamophobia

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo

In interview with Canadian broadcaster, Pakistan’s prime minister stresses that terrorism has no religion and extremists are found in every society

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday reiterated calls for the Muslim world to unite in combating Islamophobia and improving the global understanding of Islam.

During an interview with Canadian broadcaster CBC, he claimed that the terms “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic radical” had only become part of the global discourse after the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988, and the 9/11 terror attacks on New York’s World Trade Center.

Stressing that using the term “Islamic radical” suggests a flaw in the religion that radicalizes people, he noted that terrorism has no religious basis and extremists are found in every society, regardless of faith. He regretted that the popular use of these terms had resulted in Muslims living in Western states being subjected to Islamophobia and reiterated his desire to reduce this through greater understanding.

“Everyone is shocked [in Pakistan], because we saw the family picture, and so a family being targeted like that has had a deep impact in Pakistan,” he said of last week’s attack by a man on a Pakistani-Canadian family of five in London, Ontario that left four people dead and one severely injured. Police have said the attack was motivated by “faith,” and the attacker targeted the victims because they were Muslim. This attack, said Khan, reflected a recent surge in domestic terror in Western nations, and demanded a greater focus on online radicalization to curb such activities.

During the interview, the prime minister said he had talked with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the threat posed by Islamophobia, adding that the Canadian leader understood the importance of fighting online hate. He said other foreign leaders must likewise step up. “World leaders, whenever they decide to take action, this will be dealt with,” he claimed.

Regretting that many Western leaders lacked the motivation to tackle the issue because “they do not understand” the reasons behind it, he said that “mostly agreed” with Trudeau on how to tackle extremism. However, he added, there were concerns of Canadian laws—such as Quebec’s Bill 21 banning public servants from displaying religious symbols at work—were contributing to Islamophobia.

“You want humans to basically be free to express the way they want to be, as long as it doesn’t cause pain and hurt to other human beings,” he said, questioning why it was an issue for any individual to grow a beard or wear hijab. “People objecting to hijab and beard is quite bizarre for me. In liberal democracies, why is this an issue,” he said.

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