Pakistan condemned on Monday the republication of blasphemous caricatures in France and the Islamophobic remarks of French President Emmanuel Macron, with lodging strong protest with French ambassador, followed by the passage of resolutions in both house of the parliament.
The resolutions in the Senate and the National Assembly were passed unanimously, as the lawmakers from both sides of the divide calling for recalling Pakistan’s ambassador in Paris in protest, saying that the French president had hurt the sentiments of billions of Muslims around the globe.
Earlier, the Foreign Office said in a statement, that France’s ambassador was summoned to the foreign Ministry, where he was handed by a demarche by the special secretary for Europe, condemning the publication of blasphemous sketches and the Islamophobic comments later made by Macron.
“It was further conveyed that Pakistan strongly condemned equating Islam with terrorism, for narrow electoral and political gains,” it said, adding that such provocative statements and actions fanned hatred, hostility and confrontation, imperilling efforts for harmony among various segments of society.
Pakistan said that freedom of expression should not be misused as means to attack or hurt public sentiments or religious beliefs and fan inter-religious hatred. At a time of rising racism, intolerance and populism, it added, there was a need for promoting harmony among peoples and communities.
The Senate passed a unanimous resolution, tabled by Leader of the House Dr Shehzad Waseem, after a detailed debate. The resolution stated that no Muslim “can tolerate profanity against the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The resolution added it was unfortunate that such measures had the government backing.
The resolution further said that publication of blasphemous caricatures and the statement of the French president had hurt Muslims and urged the international community to play its role in preventing such actions. The Senate chairman ruled that a copy of the resolution should be given to the French envoy.
Taking part in the debate on the resolution, Jamaat-e-Islami Amir Sirajul Haq demanded that the French ambassador should be expelled from the country until France apologised to the Muslim world. He called for a boycott of the French products.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmad referred to the statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the other day, that Macron needs mental treatment. “President Erdogan is right [in saying] that the French president is mentally unbalanced,” he told the house.
PML-N’s Javed Abbasi said that the West, as always, was bent upon portraying Muslims as terrorists. Mushahidullah Khan, also from the PML-N urged the Christian community to raise this issue at the international forums to prevent blasphemous attacks in the future.
From the treasury side, Faisal Javed called for supporting the stand of Prime Minister Imran Khan on the issue. MQM-P senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said France itself was violating the international human rights law.
Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said that the sanctity of the Prophet (PBUH) was important to the Muslims more than their lives. State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan said that the majority of the people of France do not support Macron.
The resolution in the National Assembly was tabled by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, at the request of Planning Minister Asad Umar, allowed time the government and the opposition to reach a consensus on the resolution.
Reading from the unanimous resolution on behalf of the government and the opposition, Qureshi said that the house strongly condemned the insult done to the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), adding that the French president hurt the feelings of billions of Muslims.
He called for observing March 15 – the anniversary of the attack on worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch last year – as Day against Islamophobia. He demand of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation to immediate notice of the issue.
Later the house passed the resolution unanimously. Concluding the matter, the deputy speaker, who was chairing the session, saying that the house and the government condemned this insolence and demand the immediate return of the Pakistani ambassador from France in protest.
Earlier this month, a schoolteacher was beheaded in France by an 18-year-old man for showing blasphemous cartoons to his students in the name of “freedom of expression”. After the incident, French President Macron had targeted Islam in his comments.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, in a separate statement on Monday, condemned Macron’s Islamophobic comments and said that “there is resentment in the world over the blasphemous caricatures”. He urged the United Nations to take notice and action against the hate-based narrative against Islam.
“Irresponsible statement of the French president has added fuel to the fire,” he said. “Nobody has the right to hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims under the garb of freedom of expression.” He warned that the “seeds of hate being sowed today” would polarise the society and have serious consequences.
Qureshi said that a comprehensive resolution would be presented, on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan at the next meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Foreign Ministers, proposing to observe March 15 as the international day against Islamophobia.
Meanwhile, protesters rallied in the major cities of the country on Monday, where they demanded a boycott of French goods, while religious leaders called for larger demonstrations on Friday. In Lahore, protesters also set France's tricolour flag ablaze.
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