Defending Islam in Modernity: How PM Imran is championing Muslim causes like no one else

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.

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Imran Khan’s criticism of Emmanuel Macron comes at a time when he is under scrutiny for rising religious intolerance at home. 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.

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.”

PM Imran highlights Islamophobia at UNGA

Noting that there were 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, PM Imran explained this time last year that Islamophobia, “since 9/11, has grown at a pace which is alarming”.

This menace, he said, was creating a division. The premier, highlighting hypocrisy around the world, said: “A woman can take off her clothes but cannot put on more clothes?

“Hijab has become an issue in some countries. It is seen as a weapon,” he said. PM Imran said there were terms like radical Islam and Islamic terrorism and that was what was contributing to the spread of Islamophobia.

“How is a person in New York, in Midwest in the US, or in Europe, how is he going to distinguish” between the two versions of Islam considering the rise of Islamophobia, PM Imran asked.

“Terrorism has nothing to do with any religion,” he emphasised. The term, he noted, was “used by some leaders [and] it has caused pain among the Muslims.

“Muslim countries watch Islamophobia travelling [and spreading and] it is getting worse,” he said. “In the European countries, it is marginalising the communities and marginalisation leads to radicalisation.

“After 9/11, it came as war against radical Islam [but] in all communities, there are radicals,” the PM said, adding that Islamophobia had bumped the hatred against the Muslim community and that it was almost like physical pain.

Muslim leaders have done a disservice to Islam

Early this year, Khan claimed Muslim leaders did a disservice to Islam and were not able to explain to the West the difference between the religion of peace and terrorism. He also attributed Islamophobia to ignorance.

Speaking at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia in Kuala Lampur, the premier regretted the failure of Muslim nations to educate the West on why blasphemy was a sensitive subject for Muslims.

The premier flew to the Southeast Asian country in a bid to underline the importance Pakistan attaches to Kuala Lumpur. The visit is seen as significant since it comes merely a few weeks after the Kuala Lumpur summit. The premier pulled out of the event attended by leaders from Iran, Turkey, Qatar besides host Malaysia.

Pakistan initially confirmed its participation at the summit but changed its mind after Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries voiced concerns over it.

Riyadh viewed the summit as an attempt to create a new Islamic bloc. Islamabad made frantic efforts to convince the Saudi leadership to join the moot but could not bridge the differences between Kuala Lumpur and the oil-rich kingdom.

Imran recalled speaking to Dr Mahathir and Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly 2019 and formulating a plan to combat Islamophobia.

The premier said the idea behind KL Summit was to meet and highlight Islamophobia and to use a medium that would correct misconceptions about Islam. “Some is deliberately done by those who want to demonise Islam but most of the time due to ignorance.”

Imran said the platform would also educate the Muslim youth. He reflected that the children today have access to vast information on just their fingertips. “There is a need to give the children alternate information such as the history of Islam.

“With new technologies such as artificial intelligence, it is important to create a narrative,” he said and emphasised on educating children on the origins of Islam and misconceptions.

Praising religious tolerance in Malaysia, the prime minister elaborated on certain watershed moments in recent history, which in his opinion further fueled Islamophobia across the world.

“The Iranian revolution spread this in the West that the Muslim world will be taken over by a revolution. An anti-West revolution. It sprouted the idea of an anti-Western interest and then in 1989, Salman Rushdi wrote a blasphemous book. It became the second watershed moment because the reaction of the Muslim world could not be understood by the West.”

“They [West] needed to understand why we considered it blasphemy. I consider that the Muslim world’s biggest failure. It was up to the Muslim leadership to explain why it mattered so much to us. We need to tell them why we love the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”

He further said that religion in the West, particularly in Europe, is not practised in the same manner as Muslims practice their religion. “They have a completely different attitude.”

He added that the leaders of the Muslim world should have explained why such issues cause anguish to Muslims. “That’s where the idea that Islam is intolerant and against western values came into being.”

Read More: Pakistan to focus on Islamophobia at UNHRC: PM Imran

PM Imran added that the Muslim world should have objected when the West linked the terror attacks of 9/11 to Islamic terrorism. “There was no connection between Islam and that terrorist act.”

The premier regretted Muslim leaders not questioning the West linking Islam to terrorism. Instead of de-linking terrorism especially suicide bombing, he continued, the Muslim world adopted the same terminology of “moderate and radical Islam”.

A man in New Zealand walked into a mosque and killed dozens because he could not tell the difference between a normal Muslim and a terrorist, reflected the premier.

The prime minister emphasised that religion cannot be enforced, rather it flows from the heart and soul.


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