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Pakistan's Khan slams Macron's views on Islam

October 26, 2020

The Pakistani prime minister has also sought a ban on "Islamophobic content" on Facebook. Imran Khan's criticism of Emmanuel Macron comes at a time when he is under scrutiny for rising religious intolerance at home.

Pakistan Islamabad Besuch Erdogan Präsident Türkei
Image: picture-alliance/AP/Presidential Press Service

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan joined Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron for his recent comments on Islam.

"This is a time when President Macron could have put a healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarization and marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization," Khan wrote on Twitter.

"Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens, and encouraged the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and the Holy Prophet [Muhammad]," he added.

Macron didn't directly respond to Khan, but issued a tweet later in the day saying that the French government respects all differences in "a spirit of peace."

"We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values," said Macron.

Satirical caricatures

Khan's scathing criticism of Macron follows days after the French president dedicated a high-level ceremony to Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded for showing students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Macron said the teacher "was killed as Islamists want our future," as he pledged to fight "Islamist separatism" that threatened to take hold of some Muslim communities around France.

Read more: The French battle for freedom of speech: 'It's all about the principle'

Turkish President Erdogan blasted France and Europe on Saturday over what he saw as "rising Islamophobia." 

"What problem does this person called Macron have with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level," Erdogan said in a speech at a provincial congress of his Justice and Development (AK) Party in the central Turkish city of Kayseri. 

Paris condemned Erdogan's remarks as "unacceptable," adding that it was recalling its envoy to Ankara to discuss the matter.

Khan seeks ban on "Islamophobic" content

On Sunday, Khan also sought a ban on Islamophobic content on Facebook, similar to the ban Facebook has for content on the Holocaust.

In a letter to the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Pakistani premier said that growing Islamophobia was "encouraging hate, extremism and violence across the world, and especially through the use of social media platforms, including Facebook."

In the letter, Khan called out "anti-Muslim laws" in India and France's decision to allow the "publication of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and our Holy Prophet."

Religious intolerance in Pakistan

Khan's comments come amid increasing religious tensions in Pakistan.

"Imran Khan is rightly concerned about Muslims living in France. But what about the Uighurs in China? He should also show sympathy to them," Adeel Khan, a London-based Pakistani researcher and anthropologist, told DW, referring to Beijing's alleged persecution of the Muslim minority group in Xinjiang.

"Also, Khan's timing was terrible. Last month, a Pakistani migrant attacked two people outside the former Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It was a foreign policy disaster for his government," he added.

Read more: Pakistani husbands distressed as Uighur wives face Chinese crackdown

According to Pakistan's human rights groups, Pakistani police registered at least 40 blasphemy cases in August alone.

The South Asian country's independent Human Rights Commission (HRCP) said most of these cases were filed against Shiite Muslims in relation to speeches made at religious processions.

Read more: Pakistan: Hardline Sunni groups on collision course with Shiites

In September, a Lahore court sentenced a Christian man to death on charges of blasphemy. In July, a US citizen on trial for blasphemy was shot dead in a crowded courtroom in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Pakistan under pressure to repeal blasphemy laws

am/shs (Reuters, AFP)