Muslim countries should unite and form a transnational trade boycott to force the West to pass blasphemy laws to protect Muhammad from perceived insults, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed Monday.
“My way is to take heads of all Muslim countries into confidence. Together, we should ask Europe, the European Union, and United Nations to stop hurting the feelings of 1.25 billion Muslim like they do not do in case of Jews [sic],” Khan said at a ceremony to inaugurate the civil secretariat of Pakistan’s south Punjab region on April 26.
“I want the Muslim countries to devise a joint line of action over the blasphemy issue with a warning of trade boycott of countries where such incidents will happen. This will be the most effective way to achieve the goal,” the prime minister said, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
Khan’s statement on April 26 was a reiteration of a similar suggestion made on April 19.
“We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honor of the prophet,” the prime minister said during a nationally televised address from Islamabad.
“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,” Khan said. Muslims constitute the majority population in 49 countries worldwide, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report.
Khan’s April 19 speech followed hours after his government launched negotiations with a radical Islamist group in Pakistan known as Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).
TLP incited deadly mob attacks in nearly every major Pakistani city on April 13 to demand that Pakistan’s government expel its French ambassador. The call to dismiss Pakistan’s French envoy stemmed from an incident last October in which French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the beheading of a French school teacher by a Muslim Chechen national as a “blatant Islamist terrorist attack.” The teacher, Samuel Paty, had recently shown cartoon images of Muhammad published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to his class during a lesson on freedom of expression prior to his beheading outside Paris on October 16.
Anti-France and anti-Emmanuel Macron protests erupted across several Muslim-majority countries and other nations following Macron’s denouncement of the Islamist terror attack against Paty. Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution on October 26 “urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris over the publication of images of the Prophet Mohammad in France, accusing President Emmanuel Macron of ‘hate-mongering’ against Muslims,” Reuters reported at the time.
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan prescribe extreme punishments for people found guilty of insulting Islam, the country’s state religion. Pakistan government authorities may imprison people for insulting Islam, its holy book, the Quran, or any figure deemed holy by the religion under the blasphemy laws. Individuals found guilty of insulting Islam’s holiest prophet, Muhammad, may be sentenced to death, though Pakistan has never implemented the death penalty for this crime. While the state has not yet followed through with capital punishment for people found guilty of insulting Muhammad, people accused of insulting Islam are often still killed for alleged blasphemy by Muslim lynch mobs.