Pakistan’s prime minister is urging Muslim-majority countries to join together and boycott the West until the United States and other democratic countries criminalize offensive speech against Islam.
Prime Minister Imran Khan made the comments on Monday during a televised address to the nation, comparing opposition to so-called blasphemy laws to Holocaust denial, Al Jazeera reported.
“We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honor of the prophet,” Khan said, according to Al Jazeera. “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.”
Blasphemy laws forbid anyone from insulting or showing a lack of respect for the Muslim prophet Muhammad or the Koran. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in its 2021 annual report that 30 Christians, including seven on death row, were jailed in Pakistan on blasphemy charges in 2020. The blasphemy laws are “frequently abused to levy false accusations,” USCIRF reported.
Pakistan was the “world’s worst offender of blasphemy-related prosecutions and societal violence between 2014 and 2018,” the USCIRF report said.
USCIRF designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” for its frequent violations of religious liberty. USCIRF noted that Ramesh Kumar Malhi, a Hindu veterinary surgeon, was accused in 2019 of delivering medicine for animals wrapped in paper text from the Kuran. Although he was acquitted, he “remains in hiding due to continued death threats,” USCIRF reported.
Khan wants Muslim countries to “band together to lobby Western governments to criminalise the insulting of Islam’s prophet,” Al Jazeera reported.
Kahn’s address came as controversy surrounds French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of free speech following a French magazine publicizing a cartoon of Muhammed, International Christian Concern reported.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.