ISLAMABAD - Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of “attacking Islam” by defending the publication of “blasphemous” caricatures.
The comment Sunday comes four days after Macron said France would not “give up cartoons” depicting the Prophet Muhammad, pledging that Islamists “will never have” his country’s future.
“Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens, through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam & our Prophet PBUH (peace be upon him),” Khan said in a series of tweets.
“It is unfortunate that he has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists,” Khan wrote.
Macron’s controversial remarks came in response to the beheading of a French teacher, Samuel Paty, outside Paty’s school near Paris after he had shown cartoons depicting the Prophet during a class on free speech. The French president described the slain teacher as a hero, saying Islamists were a threat to the country.
“This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation,” Khan said.
Caricatures of the Prophet are forbidden by Islam. Insulting the religion or the Prophet carries the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
"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 said.
Earlier this month, Macron sparked controversy when he said, “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world,” prompting several Muslim countries to call for a boycott of French goods.
In recent years, France has experienced a series of violent attacks blamed on suspected Islamists, including a bloody 2015 assault on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing anti-Islam images.
Khan writes to Facebook
Separately, the Pakistani leader wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook, urging him to ban anti-Islam content on the social media platform.
“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,” said Khan in a letter his office released to media late Sunday.
There was no immediate comment from Facebook.
The social media giant recently announced it was updating its hate speech policy to ban any content that denied or distorted the Holocaust.
Khan noted in the letter that Islam has been associated with terrorism in France and publication of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam have been allowed there.
“This will lead to further polarization and marginalization of Muslims in France. How will the French distinguish between radical extremist Muslim citizens and the mainstream Muslim citizenry of Islam?,” Khan asked.
Last month, the Pakistani prime minister, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, denounced Charlie Hebdo for re-publishing the cartoons and demanded that "willful provocations" be "universally outlawed.”