Islamist Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the United Nations to support the “universal outlaw[ing]” of criticism, mockery, or other expression deemed offensive to Muslims in his address to the General Assembly Friday.
Like fellow Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey did during his speech on Tuesday, Khan called for the creation of an international day against “Islamophobia.” He further asserted that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic had “accentuated” alleged discrimination against Muslims.
Khan also cited leftist writer Noam Chomsky to make the case that the rise of “authoritarian regimes,” in which he did not appear to include his own, had made the world more dangerous today than it was prior to the two modern world wars.
The Christian aid group Open Doors ranks Pakistan the fifth most dangerous country in the world for Christians, both due to its legalized capital punishment for those convicted of “blasphemy” and for mob killings of those accused of speaking ill of Islam, which the Pakistani government typically fails to prosecute. While Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy, verbal disagreement or criticism of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is punishable by death. Desecration of the Quran or generalized “blasphemy” can result in death sentences or life in prison.
A Pakistani court sentenced a Christian man, Asif Pervaiz, to death last week for alleged “blasphemous” texts, which the man denied sending. Pervaiz’s lawyer has argued that Pervaiz never spoke ill of Islam but did politely reject his boss’s demands that he convert to the faith.
Khan did not address the widespread persecution of Christians, who have existed in the land constituting modern Pakistan long before its Islamic population, during his address on Friday. Khan did attack European nations for tolerating the expression of sentiments offensive to him.
The Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Khan said, has “accentuated Islamophobia.”
“Muslims continue to be targeted with impunity in many countries … incidents in Europe, including republication of blasphemous sketches by Charlie Hebdo, are recent examples,” Khan said, referring to the French satirical magazine that lost 12 people to a jihadist massacre in 2015. French police are treating a machete attack that occurred hours before Khan’s speech near the offices of the magazine as potential terrorism.
“We stress that willful provocations and incitement to hate and violence must be universally outlawed,” Khan said on behalf of Pakistan. “This Assembly should declare an ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’ and build a resilient coalition to fight this scourge — scourge that splits humanity.”
Khan launched an international campaign to criminalize free expression in the cases of alleged blasphemy in 2018, shortly after taking the reins of the country.
“Pakistan will spearhead a campaign for an international declaration against the defamation of religions,” Khan said at the time, explaining that its goal would be to “prevent people using freedom of speech as a cover for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims around the world. Pakistan will spearhead the signing of this convention and make using freedom of speech to commit blasphemy a crime.”
Khan more generally warned the assembly that, in his estimation, the world was at high risk for global conflict.
“Today, the foundations of ‘world order’ — non-use of or threat of unilateral force, self-determination of peoples, the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States, non-interference in their internal affairs, international cooperation — all these ideals are being systematically eroded,” Khan said.
“According to respected professor Noam Chomsky, mankind is at even a greater risk than it was before the 1st and 2nd World Wars in the last century,” he contended, “because of the increased threat of nuclear war, climate change, and sadly the rise of authoritarian regimes. We must come together to prevent such a catastrophe.”
The prime minister then proceeded to threaten India with a military attack, referring repeatedly to its government as “fascist” and “Nazi.”
“Any attempt by the fascist totalitarian RSS-led Indian government to aggress against Pakistan will be met by a nation that will fight for its freedom to the end,” Khan said, referring to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an Indian Hindu nationalist group.
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed countries.
The Indian delegate to the United Nations present for the General Assembly session in New York, diplomat Mijito Vinito, reportedly walked out of the hall during Khan’s speech in protest.
In other parts of the speech, Khan took credit for having allegedly “fully facilitated” the ongoing Afghanistan War peace talks and applauded himself for what he called a “smart” lockdown implemented to combat Chinese coronavirus in his country. Pakistan has documented nearly 310,000 cases of Chinese coronavirus and 6,444 deaths at press time. Mob violence, a staple of life in Pakistan, erupted before at least one hospital in response to delays with handing over the body of a coronavirus patient this summer.
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