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Unity in Condemnations

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Otherwise at loggerheads, Pakistan’s government and opposition find rare accord against Islamophobia in France

Despite organizing mass rallies against the incumbent government, Pakistan’s opposition parties have found rare unity with Prime Minister Imran Khan in their denunciation of Islamophobia in France, most recently witnessed in the projection of blasphemous cartoons on government buildings.

“Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when President [Emmanuel] Macron [of France] could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarization and marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization,” said Prime Minister Imran Khan in a posting on Twitter.

Khan was referring to the French leader accusing Muslims earlier this week of “separatism,” and vowing to only continue allowing the publication of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet, but also actively encouraging their production. Macron’s fiery speech, which has also attracted condemnations from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came in response to the beheading of a teacher after he showed his class the blasphemous caricatures during a class on free speech.

“It is unfortunate that he [Macron] has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists. Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens, through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and our Prophet (PBUH),” Khan continued on Twitter. “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. “The last thing the world wants or needs is further polarization. Public statements based on ignorance will create more hate, Islamophobia and space for extremists,” he added.

Opposition condemns

The united opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement, comprising 11 parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), has also come out against the projection of blasphemous cartoons on buildings in France.

Addressing a rally in Quetta on Sunday, PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz said the sentiments of Pakistanis, and Muslims across the world, had been hurt after blasphemous caricatures of Islam’s Prophet were projected onto government buildings in France. She urged the crowd to raise its hands and record its protest against such disrespectful and anti-Islam actions.

Similarly, PDM and JUIF chief Maulana Falur Rehman also commenced his address by condemning the “dishonorable” act of projecting the blasphemous cartoons in France, as well as reports of the Quran being burnt during protests in Denmark. He said these actions had violated the sanctity of Islam’s Prophet. “When such unholy actions are made, remember that there will be a reaction,” he warned, but stressed that Pakistanis were a peaceful nation who would register their protest in a fitting manner.

France has recently stepped up measures that have been slammed as anti-Islam by the country’s Muslim community. Paris alleges militancy is taking over some Muslim communities in the country and is considering proposals to restrict foreign funding for Muslim communities. The government also wants to create a certificate program for French-trained imams, and the Interior Ministry has announced that its officials will target 50 French Muslim associations for possible dissolution if they are found guilty of promoting hatred.

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