ISLAMABAD - Leaders of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia have decided to jointly launch an English language television channel dedicated to confronting Islamophobia and removing "misperceptions" about Islam.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the decision Thursday after his trilateral meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The three-nation channel would offer Muslims a dedicated media presence to help in "setting the record straight" on Islam and fighting the phenomenon of Islamophobia internationally.
Skeptics, however, questioned whether a dedicated TV outlet can help defuse instances of Islamophobic tendencies in the West, noting many Islamic television channels already exist and are responding to anti-Muslim propaganda and hate.
"The issue is much deeper, and merely a TV channel cannot be sufficient," said Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of Islamabad-based independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). "Without a robust intellectual foundation, a TV channel would have no worth, except a reactionary propaganda tool."
On Wednesday, Pakistan and Turkey also cohosted a high-level roundtable discussion at the U.N. on countering hate speech.
Khan and Erdogan, while addressing the event, underscored the need for putting in place effective measures against incidents of religion-based discrimination, especially facing Muslims in Western countries.
"Muslims living in Western countries are now increasingly subjected to Islamophobia which is going to have consequences unless it is addressed because we all know that marginalization of any community leads to radicalization," Khan told the group.
The Pakistani prime minister insisted neither Islam nor any other religion has anything to do with terrorism. But he lamented that Muslims, especially in Western societies, are being subjected to Islamophobia because some leaders in those countries routinely associate terrorism with Islam.
"How is a man in the street in New York suppose to tell who is a radical Muslim and who is a moderate Muslim? How can anyone tell? So, all Muslims are branded [terrorists]?" Khan asked. He said all societies, be it Muslim or Christian or Jewish, have religious fanatics.
Erdogan, while addressing the roundtable, noted that Muslims are subjected to hate speech, saying Islam is a religion of peace and linking it with terror is an "immoral slander."