ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Friday demanded the United Nations and other international organisations for a law that bans hate speech aimed at fermenting hatred and sowing discord.
He said that President Asif Ali Zardari would convey the people’s emotions and views in his address to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly next week.
“Our demand is simple,” he said. “Blasphemy of the kind witnessed in this case in nothing short of hate speech, equal to the worst kind of anti-Semitism and bigotry.”
The prime minister said that, “for us, becoming emotional upon the disrespect of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is innate as he is an essential aspect of our faith.”
Speaking at the conference organized for Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh) Day, the prime minister said that Muslims respect and revere prophets of other religions as part of “our cardinal beliefs”.
“We hope and expect similar respect and reverence for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who gave the message of peace and harmony,” he said, adding: “It is in this same spirit that I would like to make an appeal to the United Nations to maintain peace and avoid violence.”
“We are demanding that the UN and other international organisations seek a law that bans such hate speech aimed at fermenting hatred and sowing the seeds of discord through such falsehood which is a grave violation of all basic norms of humanity, international law, interfaith harmony and law, and united nations conventions and religious freedom, tolerance and civilized conduct,” he said.
The prime minister, addressing the nation, said that it was collective their responsibility to protest peacefully without causing harm or damage to life or propety.
“Protest against this disrespect is our religious obligation but this protest should be peaceful,” he said.
“Freedom of speech”
The prime minister said that there has been an increase in sacrilege of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) over the past few years and that disrespecting great personalities in the name of freedom of speech had become routine, with the Prophet (pbuh) being targeted constantly.
“It is sad that the ‘open-minded’ people of the world, who talk about peace protest against religious extremism and terrorism, consider the disrespect of the common man a violation of human rights but try to justify hurting religious sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims as freedom of speech,” he said.
Taking a leaf out of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s book, the prime minister gave reference of the Holocaust and how laws have been enacted to protect religious sentiments of the Jewish community.
“…It has become clear now that this is not freedom of speech but Fasad fil-ardh (spreading mischief in the land),” he said.
“No law in the world, code of conduct or philosophy allows disrespect of personalities who people are religiously, emotionally or spiritually attached to.”
The prime minister said that freedom of speech is not meant to be exploited for negative purposes, hurting emotions of people of different religions or for spreading an unpleasant air that fuels the fire of hatred in the world instead of instilling peace.
“This is not a service to humanity but an enmity towards it,” he said.
“Such rampant freedom which doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong, fair and unjust cannot be allowed at any cost,” said the prime minister.
Ashraf tried to enlighten people about the actual teachings of Islam which strongly condemns any hatred and animosity towards others and other religions and endorses human rights.
He endorsed the need for interfaith harmony, tolerance and respect between all religions and said that it was the lack of these elements in everyday life which was the actual cause of extremism and terrorism.