P.M. Imran Khan writes to Facebook CEO, urging ban on ‘anti-Islam’ statements
Pakistan on Sunday condemned “in the strongest manner” the “systematic resurgence” of blasphemous caricatures of Islam’s Prophet, and desecration of the holy Quran by “certain irresponsible elements” in the Western world.
“Under international human rights law, the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities. The dissemination of racist ideas, defamation and ridiculing of other religions, denigration of religious personalities, hate speech, and incitement to violence are not allowed expressions of this fundamental freedom,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office. It said Islamabad was “alarmed” that “certain politicians”—a seeming reference to France President Emmanuel Macron—were justifying “such heinous acts under the garb of freedom of expression and equating Islam with terrorism, for narrow electoral and political gains.”
According to the statement, Islamophobic acts encourage inter-religious hatred, hostility and confrontation. “[They] are the very basis of horrendous terrorist acts like Christchurch, thereby imperiling future prospects of peace and harmony among civilizations,” it added, referring to last year’s mass shootings at mosques in New Zealand that left 51 dead and 40 others injured.
Accusing the West of “double standards,” the Foreign Office statement questioned why criminal prosecution existed for “sensitive issues such as denial of Holocaust,” but there were no penalties for insulting sentiments of Muslims. “Such justifications seriously erode their human rights credentials,” it said.
“Pakistan has always supported and continues to lead international efforts for combating intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief,” read the statement, claiming Islamabad had “advocated arduously for the alliance of civilizations and developing mutual understanding and respect for all religions, faiths and beliefs.” It stressed that Pakistan “unequivocally condemns all acts of violence on the basis of religion or belief.”
Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address to the 75th U.N. General Assembly, the statement noted he had highlighted recent incidents of Islamophobia and urged the global community to take steps to universally outlaw such incitement to hate and violence. “The prime minister also proposed to declare an International Day to Combat Islamophobia,” read the statement.
“At a time of rising racism and populism, the international community must show a common resolve against xenophobia, intolerance, stigmatization and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief. It is necessary to work together for peaceful coexistence as well as social and interfaith harmony,” it added.
The FO statement followed French President Emmanuel Macron, last week, criticizing Islamists and vowing to “not give up cartoons” with blasphemous caricatures of Islam’s Prophet. He also alleged that a teacher who had been beheaded for showing the blasphemous caricatures in a class on free speech had been killed “because Islamists want our future.”
Apart from the Foreign Office statement, Prime Minister Imran Khan has also written to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, to urge him to implement a ban on Islamophobic content in line with the social media platform’s regulations on Holocaust denials.
“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 criticizes 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,” read the letter.
It said that a “similar pogrom” was now underway 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,” wrote the premier. “This will lead to further polarization and marginalization of Muslims in France,” he warned, claiming that French statements made no distinction between extremists and “mainstream” Muslims.
“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 wrote, adding the world should not wait for a ‘Holocaust’ against Muslims to ban Islamophobia.
“This, in itself, is reflective of prejudice and bias that will encourage further radicalization,” he added.
Amid mounting calls for boycotts of French products, and mass protests against Macron’s statements, in Muslim-majority states, the French Foreign Affairs Ministry has issued a statement urging calm. “These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority,” read the statement.
Macron also tweeted defiance, maintaining “we will not give in, ever” to Islamic extremists. “We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate,” he added.