Imran Khan says plan to force blasphemy laws on West WILL work

Pakistan PM Imran Khan boasts that his plan for Muslim countries to unite and force blasphemy laws onto the West with trade boycotts WILL work

  • Imran Khan has claimed his plan for Muslim-majority countries to force Western governments to criminalise insulting the Prophet Mohammed will work
  • He said Monday that lobbying Western nations, the EU and UN to adopt blasphemy laws with a warning of a trade boycott will be ‘effective’
  • Khan said the West should ‘stop hurting the feelings’ of Muslims across world

Pakistan’s prime minister has boasted that his plan for Muslim-majority countries to unite and force Western governments to criminalise insulting the Prophet Mohammed will work. 

Imran Khan said lobbying Western nations, the European Union and United Nations to adopt blasphemy laws with a warning of a trade boycott if they do not do so will be ‘effective’ in achieving their goal.

He said leaders of Muslim-majority countries should call on the West to ‘stop hurting the feelings’ of Muslims across the world with their current freedom of speech laws, reports Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Khan said insulting Islam’s Prophet should be treated in the same way as questioning the Holocaust, which is a crime in some European countries. 

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan has boasted that his plan for Muslim-majority countries to unite and force Western governments to criminalise insulting the Prophet Mohammed will work (file photo)

‘My way is to take heads of all Muslim countries into confidence,’ Khan said in an address on Monday. 

‘Together we should ask Europe, the European Union and United Nations to stop hurting the feelings of 1.25 billion Muslims like they do not do in [the] case of Jews.’

‘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,’ Khan continued. ‘This will be the most effective way to achieve the goal.’

Khan said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has already discussed the plan with four foreign ministers from Muslim-majority countries.

The address came after the government opened negotiations last week with radical religious group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) over anti-blasphemy protests against France.

The TLP had led violent nationwide anti-France protests demanding that Pakistan expel the French ambassador in retaliation for the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.  

Khan said in his address yesterday that the banned group’s approach to get the ambassador expelled by putting the government in a corner was not an effective solution to the blasphemy issue. 

The address came after the government opened negotiations last week with radical religious group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) over anti-blasphemy protests against France. Pictured: Pakistani traders burn of French President Emmanuel Macron during the protests on April 19

The TLP had led violent nationwide anti-France protests demanding that Pakistan expel the French ambassador in retaliation for the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Pictured: TLP protesters gather in Lahore, Pakistan on April 20

He had previously warned that Pakistan risked paying a price if it expelled the French envoy, as half the country’s exports are sold to the European Union. 

Last week on Monday, Khan had called on the countries to lobby Western nations in a televised address.

‘We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honour of the prophet,’ Imran Khan said in a televised address on Monday.

‘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 address came on the same day that the government opened negotiations with TLP over the protests with left four police officers dead.

A day later, TLP called an end to the violent protests after the government called a parliamentary vote on whether to expel the French ambassador and said it would halt criminal cases against the group’s members.           

Khan had previously warned that Pakistan risked paying a price if it expelled the French envoy, as half the country’s exports are sold to the European Union. Pictured: TLP supporters throw stones at security forces in Lahore on April 12 [File photo]

Pakistan arrested the leader of the group Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on April 12 and banned the group two weeks ago after its members blocked main highways, railways and access routes to major cities, assaulting police and burning public property. 

Four police officers were killed, 11 taken hostage and more than 800 wounded, many seriously, during week-long clashes.  

The police officers were abducted during clashes outside TLP headquarters in the eastern city of Lahore, which according to the group also killed three of its members.  The TLP later freed the 11 officers abducted during the protests.           

Photographs of the police officers, with their heads, legs and arms heavily bandaged, were posted on social media by their captors.

‘They’ve released the 11 policemen they had held hostage,’ Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said in a video statement, adding that negotiations with the TLP were under way.

‘There have been two rounds of the talks and there will be another later in the evening,’ Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri told parliament. 

‘We believe in negotiations and reconciliation to sort out issues.’

The government outlawed the TLP two weeks ago after it blocked main highways, railways and access routes to major cities, assaulting police and burning public property.

Four police officers were killed and more than 500 wounded in the fray.

The government outlawed the TLP after it blocked main highways, railways and access routes to major cities, assaulting police and burning public property. Four police officers were killed and more than 500 wounded in the fray. Pictured: TLP supporters in Lahore on April 12

Pictured: A water cannon is used to disperse TLP protesters in Lahore, Pakistan on April 12

The TLP has presented four main demands in the talks with the government, officials from both sides said. They included expulsion of the French ambassador, release of the TLP leader and around 1,400 arrested workers, lifting the ban on the group and the dismissal of the interior minister. Pictured: TLP supporters in Lahore on April 12

The violence erupted after the government detained TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi ahead of a planned countrywide anti-France campaign to pressure the Islamabad government to expel the French ambassador in response to the publication of cartoons in France last year depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

The TLP had presented four main demands in the talks with the government, officials from both sides said.

They included expulsion of the French ambassador, release of the TLP leader and around 1,400 arrested workers, lifting the ban on the group and the dismissal of the interior minister.

Khan said expelling the French ambassador would only cause damage to Pakistan, and diplomatic engagement between the Muslim world and the West was the only way to resolve disputes.

‘When we send the French ambassador back and break relations with them it means we break relations with the European Union,’ he said in Monday’s televised address.

‘Half our textile exports go to the EU, so half our textile exports would be gone.’

Pictured: Police patrol the streets of Karachi on Monday during a clash with supporters of the TLP

Pictured: TLP supporters clash with police in Karachi on Monday after a nationwide shutdown was announced to show solidarity with the banned religious group

Relations between Paris and Islamabad have worsened since the end of last year after President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of speech while paying tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded by an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin for showing cartoons of the Prophet during a lesson.

Protests erupted in several Muslim-majority countries over France’s response to the killing of Samuel Paty. The Prophet cartoons were re-printed elsewhere as well.

At the time, Khan’s government signed a deal promising to present a resolution in parliament by April 20 to seek approval for the expulsion of the French envoy and to endorse a boycott of French products.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where forms of the crime can carry a mandatory death sentence.

At least 78 people have been murdered in relation to blasphemy accusations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

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