Pakistan Urges Muslim Trade War Against West for Allowing ‘Insulting the Prophet’ Blasphemy

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference at the United Nations
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Muslim nations should band together to boycott Western countries if they fail to criminalise “insulting” the Islamic prophet Mohammed, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday.

Amid growing tension between Pakistan and France over the controversy of supposedly blasphemous cartoons satirising Mohammed, Khan has called for a coalition of 50 Muslim countries to launch a trade war against countries that hide behind “freedom of speech”.

“When 50 Muslim countries will unite and say this, and say that if something like this happens in any country, then we will launch a trade boycott on them and not buy their goods, that will have an effect,” the Pakistani leader said per Al Jazeera.

“We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honour of the prophet,” Khan added.

In comments reported by the Pakistani newspaper The Nation, the Prime Minister said that the “West does not understand,” saying: “They do not even love the prophets the way we do with our Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Even, they are not attached to religion (the way we are). They will have to be made it understood.”

Over the past week, anti-French riots have engulfed Pakistan, resulting in the death of police officers, some of whom were taken hostage by radical Islamists. In response, the French embassy called on citizens in the country to flee Pakistan out of safety concerns.

The radical Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) faction in the country, the driving force behind the riots, was banned by the government last Wednesday. The TLP has reportedly called off further demonstrations as it awaits a possible expulsion of the French ambassador by the country’s parliament.

Khan has come out in opposition to the move, claiming that it would only serve to hurt Pakistan economically, predicting retaliation from the European Union.

“My question is: by sending the French ambassador back and cutting all ties, will this stop [this blasphemy]?” the Pakistani PM said, adding: “Is there a guarantee that people will stop insulting the prophet?

“I guarantee that if we do this, if Pakistan does this, then this same thing will happen in another European country on the issue of freedom of expression,” he said.

Tensions between the two countries ramped up following French President Macron’s defence of freedom of speech, following the death of history teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by a Muslim refugee after he showed his class caricatures of Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Islamist attackers previously targetted the offices of the magazine, gunning down 17 people including journalists in a 2015 attack.

In March, a British teacher was forced into hiding after a local Islamic group shared his identity online in response to allegations that he had also shown a satirical depiction of the Islamic prophet.

In Pakistan, where blasphemy is forbidden by law, the sharing of such images could result in the death penalty.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Khan called upon European nations to criminalise blaspheming the Islamic prophet, arguing that it should be treated the same as denial of the Holocaust, which is a criminal offence in several countries in Europe, such as France and Germany.

“I … call on Western govts who have outlawed any negative comment on the holocaust to use the same standards to penalise those deliberately spreading their message of hate against Muslims by abusing our Prophet,” the Pakistani leader said.

Pakistan is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, a position Pakistani officials have vowed to use to criminalize blasphemy around the world.

“I am pleased with Pakistan’s re-election to the UN Human Rights Council … we stand resolute against Islamophobia & in support of mutual respect,” Khan said in October, when Pakistan assumed the seat on the Council. Khan has repeatedly defined “Islamophobia” as the legal status of criticism of the religion anywhere in the world.


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