Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has written to the leaders of Muslim-majority countries, asking them “to act collectively to counter growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states”, his office has said.
Khan issued the letter on Wednesday, according to a statement, but it was unclear exactly which state leaders it had been sent to.
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The letter follows a rebuke by Khan to French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week, where he accused Macron of “encouraging Islamophobia” for moves made by his government to tackle what the French leader termed “Islamic separatism”.
Macron’s comments accusing Muslim religious schools of “indoctrination” and defending the “right to blaspheme” under freedom of expression have sparked outrage in parts of the Muslim world, leading to calls for a boycott of French products in some countries.
The French leader’s comments followed the killing of a French teacher after he showed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during a lesson earlier this month.
In his letter on Wednesday, Khan called on the leaders of Muslim-majority states to band together to tackle what he termed “the rising tide of Islamophobia and attacks”.
While he did not explicitly reference France, Khan said “recent statements at the leadership level […] are a reflection of this increasing Islamophobia that is spreading in European countries where sizeable Muslim populations reside”.
My letter to leaders of Muslim states to act collectively to counter the growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states esp Western states causing increasing concern amongst Muslims the world over. pic.twitter.com/OFuaKGu2c1
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 28, 2020
Khan said leaders of these countries did not understand the “love and devotion Muslims all over the world have for their Prophet [Muhammad] and their divine book the Holy Quran”.
“As a result, a dangerous cycle of actions and reactions are set in motion,” he wrote, an apparent reference to acts of violence in response to acts deemed to insult either the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran.
“Hurtful actions result in reactions from Muslims as they see their faith and their beloved Prophet targeted which results in further discriminatory actions by governments against Muslim populations in their states, resulting in marginalisation of Muslims and the creating of space for radical, far-right groups to exploit the situation.”
Khan also repeated a call he had made in a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this week, for the personage of the prophet and the Quran to be treated on par with the Holocaust as topics that could not be insulted, questioned or disrespected under free speech rights.
Since coming to power in 2018, the Pakistani prime minister has often raised the issue of rising attacks against Muslims, both physical and through administrative actions by governments, particularly during his annual addresses at the United Nations General Assembly.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.