As protests against the profane film rocked the country, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf demanded of world bodies to draft a law that bans hate speech which ignites the emotions of tens of millions of Muslims across the world.
Addressing the Ishq-e-Rasool (PBUH) conference on Friday, to mark the protest on behalf of the government against the anti-Islam film, Ashraf demanded of the United Nations and other international organisations to devise a law that bans hate speech.
“We ask the UN and other international organisations to create a law that bans hate speech which foments hatred, sows the seeds of discord and stands in violation to the norms of humanity and interfaith harmony,” the premier said.
“Our demand is simple, blasphemy of the kind witnessed in this case is nothing short of hate speech, equal to the worst kind of anti-Semitism and bigotry,” he explained.
Prime Minister Ashraf expressed his sense of regret over the act of people who had tried to defame the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a most honourable and revered personality.
He said that people are enraged after discovering that “this was a deliberate and premeditated act stemming out of biases of a certain faction.”
He reminded the West that Pakistan was the only Islamic country officially observing a day of protest.
He added that President Zardari would be taking up the issue at the General Assembly of the United Nations next week in his address and would convey the people’s emotions and views to the world body.
While addressing the nation, Ashraf said that it was the collective responsibility of the nation to protest peacefully without causing any damage to the life and property of the people.
“On the occasion of Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool, it is our religious obligation that the protests should remain peaceful,” he asserted.
‘Freedom of speech’
During the course of the speech, the prime minister added that there is a surge in sacrilegious material over the past few years and that denigrating the faith under the garb of freedom of speech has become excessively common.
“It is sad that the ‘open-minded’ people of the world – who stand against religious extremism and terrorism and consider disrespecting the sentiments of the common man a violation of human rights –justify hurting religious emotions of nearly 1.5 billion Muslims as freedom of speech.”
Taking a leaf out of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s book, the prime minister gave the example 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),” Ashraf asserted.
“No law in the world or a stream of philosophical thought allows disrespecting personalities who are sacred to a wide number of people.”
Freedom of speech, the premier said, is not meant to be exploited for negative purposes, creating an unpleasant environment and fuelling hate rather than instilling peace.
“This is not a service to humanity but an enmity towards it and such rampant freedom which doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong, justice and injustice cannot be allowed at any cost,” an enraged Ashraf remarked.
Ashraf tried to enlighten people about the actual teachings of Islam which strongly condemns any hatred and animosity towards other religions and truly endorses the essence of human rights.
He stressed upon the principles of interfaith harmony, tolerance and respect between all religions and said that it was the lack of these elements in everyday life that cause extremism and terrorism.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.