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Pakistan Press ( 5 Nov 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press On Forced Conversion, Forced Marriages And France’s Islamophobia: New Age Islam's Selection, 5 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

5 November 2020

• Forced Conversion And Forced Marriages Of Minorities In Pakistan

By Kamila Hyat

• Is Pakistan Safe For Women?

By Saman Masud Khan

• Ideology, Cadre, Political Parties And Leaders

By Syed Akhtar Ali Shah

• The Past, Present And Future Of Gender-Based Victimization (Part 1)

Dr Izza Aftab And Noor Ul Islam

• The Absurdity Of France’s Islamophobia

By Inam Ul Haque

• In The Name Of Free Speech

By Fahad Hassan Chohan


Forced Conversion And Forced Marriages Of Minorities In Pakistan

By Kamila Hyat

November 5, 2020



Terrible acts of violence and suffering take place in houses across our country because of the inability of the government to pay heed to the laws it has itself put on the books. Most recently in Karachi, a 13-year-old girl Arzoo was kidnapped from inside her house while playing with her brother and sister and, according to the reports we have so far, possibly married to the 44-year-old neighbour who had kidnapped her. She was also forced to convert to Islam. The matter was then taken to the court which decided to send her back with the husband. Her mother was not allowed to see the teenager in the courtroom despite making many pleas for a meeting of a few minutes.

This is not an unusual story. It has occurred even though the Child Marriage Restraint Act which abolishes the marriage of a person aged below 18 in the province of Sindh is on the statute books of the province and other laws against forced conversion are also in place. Yet the question is when the government will make any real effort to enforce these laws. The Sindh government has said it plans to investigate the matter of Arzoo and determine what happened. But time has already been lost. The family has been traumatized and any action coming now will be late but still welcome.

The case of Arzoo is not isolated. In other parts of Sindh, Hindu girls have been forced to convert and marry in a very similar way. Often a local cleric is involved. The matter is one that has been brought to the notice of authorities again and again by minority groups. But nothing changes. No one seems to bother beyond the usual protest by the familiar human rights and other groups which take up these issues nothing really moves.

Indeed, there is evidence that the attitude of people is growing more and more extreme and rigid by the day. The remarks made by some government ministers on the issue of minorities may have had a role to play in this. It is now time for change. Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan quite correctly spoke out against what happened in France and the use of cartoons derogatory to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in a classroom. But even as he spoke, we wonder if he was thinking about the multiple cases which occur in his own country.

Certainly, he has not said anything about Arzoo or the other girls who are forcibly converted and married to men usually far older than themselves. The question has been asked of why it is only girls who feel compelled to convert this way and not boys of a similar age. We need the prime minister and the federal government to at least speak out on the matter. Only if this happens will the case receive the kind of attention it deserves. The Sindh government has moved and is doing what it can but we can only hope this will be enough.

Beyond the issue of girls being forcibly converted, there are also many other matters concerning minorities in the manner in which they are treated. We often take up the issue of minorities in other countries and how they are suffering abuse or mistreatment at the hands of persons in those nations. It is good that we speak out. Certainly someone needs to speak out for the Muslims of Kashmir and those of Palestine. Even though Pakistan has been largely silent on Palestine, it has spoken out for Kashmir. It now also needs to speak out for minorities in its own country. There is no reason why that should not happen.

In the original State of Medina that Imran Khan has told us so much about, even Jewish people were called in to give their opinion on various issues and to participate in meetings about these matters. Minorities were not ostracized, they were not punished, they were not penalized only because their religion was different to that of the ruling group.

This is something we need to learn from. We must go back in time: look at history, learn from it and also learn from the examples of other countries. Today we do not want to be converted into anything that looks like the India that exists today. It has become a terribly dangerous place for many people to live in. These people include the large Muslim minority of that country and the Dalit group which is discriminated against on the basis of cast.

The first issue is for the government to ensure that laws in place on the statute books are respected and abided by. The police must be educated about these laws and some steps taken to guide them on how to act when cases occur. The attitudes within the police force are of course no different to those of the general public. Many believe that minorities are in some way inferior to the majority group in this country. This policy has to be corrected. It should begin by trying to re-educate the police force and also the lower judiciary

But beyond this better material has to go into the textbooks that are studied by children in schools and read in other places including madressahs. Madressahs of course present a difficult problem in the sense that their curricula are so different to that of mainstream schools that it will be difficult to change them although the government has promised this will be done. In the meanwhile, at least in the mainstream schools where books published by the provisional text book boards apply, material has to be provided to children which teaches them respect for all religions no matter who follows them or what these people believe.

Humanity must be the first principle of our lives. Humanity belongs to all persons and it is not based around any particular sect, any particular religion or any particular school or belief. Certainly, this has become the norm in many developed countries. It must be brought into our own country bit by bit and piece by piece.

We took many steps back in the 1980s during the days of the Zia dictatorship. There is now evidence that we are still moving further back and that the current government has done nothing to stop this. In some ways it may have encouraged it. This has to change. Steps forward have to be taken so that in the future there are no cases like those of little Arzoo and no sufferings like that seen by a mother outside the Sindh courtroom where her daughter and her so-called husband were taken.


Kamila Hyat is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.


Is Pakistan Safe For Women?

By Saman Masud Khan

November 4, 2020

A common feature of coercion is the abuse of power to subjugate the rape victim, especially in situations where deprivation or dire consequences are threatened. Categories of rape can include marital rape, stranger rape, gang rape and systematic rape during war.

Pakistan's laws previously included rape in the Offence of Zina Ordinance 1979, which made the crime a religious offence, subject to different standards of evidence and punishment, and subject to the appellate jurisdiction of Shariah Courts. The effect of Section 8 of the Ordinance was reversal of the presumption of innocence -- “guilty until proven innocent”. This resulted in the Ordinance becoming an instrument of oppression against women.

In 2016, Pakistan adopted the Protection of Women (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, which reclassified rape differently from fornication and adultery and substantively revised sections of the Pakistan Penal Code that dealt with the crime. If the accused is not recovered for appearance before the court, Section 512 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) allows for evidence to be recorded in the absence of the accused and a trial to be held in absentia until he is apprehended.

Human rights activist I A Rehman stated at the time: “the Act introduces new dimensions in violence against women. In the past, a case was only registered when a woman was physically tortured. Now, even mental torture is considered a punishable crime.” As provinces cannot alter the CRPC, which is a federal law, new recommendations like the 2016 Act provide civil remedies such as protection orders, residence orders and monitoring orders. Since the Act specifically deals with protection of women, it could help make police forces more receptive to problems and laws that deal with violence against women.

However, despite the existence of a legal mechanism to protect women, there is ineffective and lacking implementation of the same. Even if policies have been explicitly laid down, societal and cultural ‘values’, which are often regressive, dictate how these are implemented.

The Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984 deals with ‘proof of facts’ in legal proceedings. It is pertinent to mention Section 21(j), which has a discriminatory effect on prosecution of rape cases. Cases reported ‘late’ are due to psychological or logistical reasons, or simply because the police dissuade victims from filing cases. This works against women, as their intentions are viewed as ‘mala fide’, or worse, seen as a conspiracy to falsely implicate the accused.

The Criminal Code now enables a female victim to bring forth credible witnesses, of either gender to support her claim. A medico-legal examination can prove the rape took place, if DNA is collected within 72 hours, as per requirement. One cannot bring up a woman’s past sexual history in a rape trial to destroy her credibility, after the deletion of Section 151(4) of the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984.

According to the NGO ‘War Against Rape’, cases of rape are underreported and conviction rates are low (under three percent, across the country, with the exception of gender-based violence courts recently operationalized). Research conducted on rape cases registered in Punjab by Jang Group and Geo Television Network shows 1,365 cases in 2017 and no fewer than 3,881 cases in 2019. The Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) revealed a 200 percent increase in cases of violence against women in Pakistan in the first three months of 2020.

In the latest Motorway gang-rape case in Lahore, the perpetrators broke the car window, looted valuables, dragged the family to the side of the road, where they gang-raped the woman in front of her children. This incident happened just five days after the dead body of a five-year-old girl, who was raped, was found in Karachi. In January 2018, the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in Kasur, Punjab led to nationwide outrage in a similar manner.

The public pressured the government to find the culprits and give them exemplary punishment. The demand of public hanging was widespread; however, public execution is not a real solution as it resolves public anger via aggression and covers the state’s complicity in creating conditions that result in such crime but does little to prevent the occurrence of such crimes in the future.

Women in Pakistan are blamed for putting themselves in dangerous situations; or in the case of marital rape, not being subservient. The judiciary has a very small percentage of female judges and hardly any female public prosecutors. Trials are held in open court, with nothing barring onlookers from making gestures that mock victims. Minors are not awarded special care, nor shielded during the identification process and given in-camera trials as a matter of routine. Bails are granted casually when the crux of the evidence is based on medical findings.

Offenders, once released, find ways to torment the victims and their families, against which the state awards no tangible protection. There are very few shelter homes for women seeking refuge. Going to a shelter home is still considered taboo and perceived as the last resort of women who have been turned away by ‘respectable society.’ There is no existing long-term rehabilitation plan for victims supported by the government.

In 2020, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women commended the state of Pakistan for setting up GBV courts. However, it was stressed that more can be done to improve access to justice by ensuring non-discrimination, removing economic barriers, and implementing further capacity building measures.

A case can take about 3-4 years to conclude, which contravenes the National Judicial Policy of the Supreme Court, 2009 (revised 2012), which stipulates that: “All cases punishable with imprisonment from seven years and above including death cases shall be decided within a period of one year.” Despite policies like these, the police waste tremendous amounts of time in so-called investigations and almost always fail to submit the charge-sheet within the 14-day period (as also directed under the policy and liable to disciplinary action by the courts).

The government, including provincial governments, must repeal discriminatory laws against women. To make justice accessible, laws must be put in place for women who may be deterred due to social and psychological reasons from reporting. This would include building better facilities for the preservation of forensic evidence; and eliminating the two-finger test, among other actions required. More importantly, the government needs to legislate on sexual offences that have not yet translated into legal language in order to award women legal protection.


Saman Masud Khan is a lawyer and activist.


Ideology, Cadre, Political Parties And Leaders

By Syed Akhtar Ali Shah

November 03, 2020

“After ages, political process has returned to our village. Tomorrow is a convention of the party,” remarked a jubilant worker on the joining of a turncoat on a social media forum. On my inquiry if the party was deficient of committed workers in the area, the young activist replied, “The party base is there, the structure is there too, but the ideology is missing.” The area in question happened to be an area which had always remained vibrant with ideologically committed party cadre.

In the broader perspective, history tells us that ideologies have played a vital part in changing the world. Change is a constant phenomenon and ideology acts as a propelling force to bring about such a change within society. No doubt leaders, philosophers and ideologues alone did not bring such a change, but they had done so with a well-knitted team of dedicated people imbued with the ideology of change. This team which we may also call a cadre vehemently pursued and carried forward the message. The ideological process emerging out of the material conditions always remained the central spirit of a movement, catalysed by a leader.

In this process, history witnessed different stages of social development with a change in the means of production. We witnessed transformation of feudalism into capitalism and imperialism; a worse form of capitalism. While capitalism had its ugly shape in the form of class exploitation it also gave birth to the concept of nation sates and values of democracy. With this also emerged political parties acting as vehicles to carry forward the political philosophy.

Although these imperialists have captured most of the lands in the world and exploited the resources of the conquered, every phenomenon, in terms of the Marxist lexicon, has its own contradictions. Colonial imperialism also spread ideas of democracy, nationalism, socialism and national liberation. The natives of colonies, especially India, went abroad to seek education where they were not only exposed to those ideas but also intermingled with freedom loving writers, poets and political activists who made lasting impressions on their minds. For instance, “liberty, equality, fraternity” the slogan of the French revolution; the writings of Rousseau expounding the general will of the people and people’s sovereignty; Locke’s political theory in support of constitutional monarchy and creation of the state by the will of the people; Voltaire’s championing of reason, cosmopolitanism, justice, human dignity and tolerance as well as progress; Bacon’s scientific reason; JS Mill’s individual’s liberty; Darwin’s theory of evolution; Karl Marx’s theory of socialism; Tolstoy’s peace and non-violence, fired their imagination.

Having read those thinkers and observed political parties, they also yearned for notions of liberty, self-rule and equality of opportunities. The otherwise scattered people torn into castes, tribes and ethnic groups could only be woven together through an organisation. Hence the idea to establish a political party was born. The emergence of political parties cobbled the divided groups with a sense of nationalism and pride in their own culture. These parties, particularly the Indian National Congress, developed party cadres which ran the network all over India. Those cadres under the leadership of Gandhi provided pool of leadership at national and local levels. Soon, they were able to organise mass movement for national liberation, ultimately resulting in independence in 1947. In contrast to this, the Muslim League could not organise cadres and the leadership remained in the hands of a few feudal lords.

One of the major fault lines in the governance of Pakistan was the revolving of politics around the political elite belonging to the feudal class. Congress and the government in India also remained under the charisma of Jawaharlal Nehru, which was carried over by his daughter and then grandson Rajiv. However, with the passage of time and new emerging realties, the charisma of the Nehru family no longer worked. The voters have moved away from charisma-led Congress to the BJP which represents the middle class and is credited with an elaborate system of cadre-based leadership. The success of the party is largely due to its well-organised cadre system.

The magic of the charisma of different dynasties is no longer appealing to the people. This is why in Pakistan new political forces have emerged in the traditional strongholds of charisma-based parties. One of the major reasons is that these parties are in the habit of relying upon the past laurels of their dead leaders and never gave serious thought to organising ideologically trained cadres. For decades the same old faces occupied all positions of prominence which in turn not only made the younger aspirants feel alienated but the fast expanding trading class and professionals also found the party unwelcoming to them. These new emerging classes found opportunities of political growth in the newly-formed parties. On the contrary, in the UK, the Labour Party and Conservative Party have developed cadres acting as nurseries to provide new leadership whenever the need arises.

The lessons drawn from the political development in the country and of developed democracies are that only a political party that has a sound cadre can survive the rigours of time and remain popular.


The Past, Present And Future Of Gender-Based Victimization (Part 1)

Dr Izza Aftab And Noor Ul Islam

November 5, 2020

Gender inequality issues are structural in nature. It would not be wrong to say that women suffer from time poverty. What starts from the preference of a son leads to a cycle of victimization throughout a woman’s life. Some of the atrocities women face include honor-killings, rape, abductions, acid attacks, domestic abuse, harassment, dowry and unequal opportunities in major spheres of life. It is a sad picture to visualize that the deep-rooted misogyny in Pakistan’s societal structure has put us in a place where our country is suffering in its pragmatic spheres of economic, social and political life. To date, few fields of study and occupations are still ghettoized by the concept of gender. It is a norm to see women taking on the responsibility of household and caregiving tasks – an unpaid burden that suffocates many – who want to resist but cannot. The lockdowns highlighted the much invisible work of women. All this is also evident from the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 – which places Pakistan on 151th position out of a total of 153 countries. Economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and health and survival are the categories of the index where Pakistan ranks among the bottom ten countries. Thus, gender inequality is a plague in our society that can be deemed to be inherited and resistant to progressive changes. Those ‘in-control’ remain insensitive to the muffled cries of many who are victims of heinous injustices and crimes.

The spillover effects of domestic abuse are evident in the personality of children – who eventually perform the same roles as members of the next generation

The life of a woman in Pakistan can be summed up as an algorithm of patriarchal restrictions. According to UN Women, in Pakistan, only 40.7% of data is available for indicators to monitor SDGs from a gendered perspective. With all these facts in place, it is significant to determine whether Pakistan’s performance to achieve sustainable development goal number 5 is sufficient to invigorate the achievement of ‘Gender Equality’. Target 5.1 seeks to ‘end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere’. In this regard, UN Women provides data on ‘legal frameworks that promote, enforce and monitor gender equality (percentage of achievement, 0 – 100)’. There are four relevant areas that cover this indicator – ‘overarching legal frameworks and public life’, which has a level of achievement of 54.5 percent, ’employment and economic benefits’ at 75 percent, ‘marriage and family’ at 46.2 percent, and there is no data on the area of ‘violence against women’ to assign an achievement percentage to it.

Target 5.2 aims at ‘eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation’. Amidst COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns, UNFPA projected that for every 3 months of lockdown, 15 million new cases of gender-based violence could be expected. The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2017-18) reports statistics on the proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older, who were subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months. The results showed that 20.6 percent women faced psychological violence, 13.6 percent faced physical violence, and 3.6 percent faced sexual violence. Psychological abuse is prevalent in many areas of the society, but only extreme cases are highlighted or reported. Women don’t have the option to live in any other way because of their socioeconomic dependence on the situation. The spillover effects of domestic abuse are evident in the personality of children – who eventually perform the same roles as members of the next generation. A violence-free life is a basic human right, yet, raising one’s voice against domestic abuse, especially spousal violence, has become a taboo in our society.

Target 5.5 deals with ‘ensuring women’s full and effective participation, and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life’. According to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in 2020, the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments of Pakistan is 20.2 percent, which is a decrease from 22.52 percent in 2012. Moreover, the data from UN Women shows that the proportion of elected seats held by women in deliberative bodies of local government is 17 percent. The Elections Act of 2017 mandated political parties to award five percent of their tickets, on general seats, to women candidates. Unfortunately, our political culture is also tainted with verbal sparring in the form of objectionable and derogatory remarks for women by notable politicians. With regards to this target, another indicator deals with the proportion of women in managerial positions. In 2016, according to the ILOSTAT – Labor Force Survey, this statistic stood at 2.9 percent in Pakistan. Similarly, according to a 2017 report by IMF, there are only 3 percent of female legislators, senior officials and managers in Pakistan against a world average of 29 percent. Contrary to all these statistics about our country, a 2015 report by McKinsey estimated that in a ‘full potential’ scenario – when men and women participate equally in the economy – a resultant 26 percent could be added to annual global GDP by 2025. This leaves much to think in the form of the loss of productivity, and ultimately progress – we as a nation are facing.


Dr. Izza Aftab is the chairperson of the Economics Department at Information Technology University, Lahore. She is also the Director of the SDG Tech Lab and the Program Director of Safer Society for Children. She has a PhD in Economics from The New School University (NY, USA) and is a Fulbrighter.

Noor Ul Islam is currently working as a Research Associate at the SDG Tech Lab established in collaboration with Information Technology University, Lahore, UNDP and UNFPA. She is a post-graduate in Economics from Lahore University of Management Sciences.


The Absurdity Of France’s Islamophobia

By Inam Ul Haque

November 04, 2020

Dear Mr Macron... you have finally said what you, and most like you, have felt all along. Your animosity towards Islam. Your lack of ample knowledge of Islam and your lack of compassion for millions of French Muslims, whom you accuse of non-assimilation; and whom you want to relegate as lesser French citizens under the guise of an impending bill to ‘strengthen the laïcité’ — separatism between state and religion.

You have said it on record that Islam is in crisis worldwide. And your government supports the republication and wider dissemination of the caricatures of Islam’s beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). And all this is done under the garb of ‘freedom of expression’ as France deems fit.

Taking on the crisis of Islam first. One would wish you to understand the fundamental difference between a faith, its basic building blocks, its enshrined principles and its followers. Followers are a motley crowd believing in different interpretations of the Holy Scriptures — just like in the other two great Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Judaism. Followers, at times, take verses out of context to justify acts not permitted under any religion. Did you say Christianity was in crisis when a Christian shooter in 2019 attacked a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing scores of innocent Muslim worshippers? No individual represents a faith.

I hope your knowledge of the history of the world is sufficient for you to understand the context of the Religious Wars (16-18th centuries) in Europe and the colonisation of vast swathes of Asia and Africa by Western powers including France; and the forced conversions by Christian missionaries, unleashed in these unfortunate lands, to inject civility into their poor and hapless subjects, considered the ‘Whiteman’s burden’. Could we blame the great Christian religion for these wanton acts of commission and omission, including the continued brutalisation of places like Mali to this day for economic benefit?

One would wonder where the enshrined principles of French Revolution (1789-99), “Liberté, égalité, fraternité, ou la mort! (Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death!)”, would fit in the spirit of French political discourse today. And if what Voltaire (1694-1778) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and many others stood for, was only applicable to people of Christian faith.

Today’s debate considers millions of French Muslims immature citizens unable to comprehend ‘secular republicanism’. A French polling company, IFOP, in 2016, estimated French Muslims to be around four million. This number is phenomenally increased, considering continued migration and France’s area of influence in the Francophone world. Insulting the Prophet of your second largest religious community and remaining callously insensitive to their feelings is not only bad politics, it is poor leadership. These are your people. Liberty, equality and fraternity should apply to them also, especially the liberty to wear a headscarf by the women, who choose to do so.

Your argument about the freedom of expression is also a non-starter, as it was settled in the aftermath of Salman Rushdie’s infamous book, The Satanic Verses (1988). Twenty-first century civility forbids a freedom of expression that hurts a sizeable group of people who cannot avoid to be affected by it — directly or indirectly. Your nude beaches are your business but tinkering with the religious symbolism of any religion, including Islam, would be asking for trouble. Muslims do not believe in any hurtful freedom of speech, neither should you… the elected President of a civilised country having millions of Muslims.

So Mr President! It is not Islam that is in crisis, it may be some Muslims who cannot defend their faith and their rights; who get confused by the cacophony of propaganda against their great faith; who are unnecessarily apologist for every wrong that is committed in the name of their religion… who are in crisis. Why would a faith ordained by the Lord Himself be in crisis? Especially once we all — you too — believe that He is all powerful, all knowing and all encompassing. Did you ever profess Christianity was in crisis, or Judaism in decline?

Dear Mr Macron! It is not Islam that is in crisis, it is the bigots who rule over them and dominate them; and who generally engage their mouth much earlier than their brains — without full comprehension of a divine religion — who are in crisis. Islam will live on and flourish... as it has all these centuries... long after you and me go to see our Creator. And maybe the grandchildren of many French people would be blessed to be Muslims. The ravages of the coronavirus are at work to catapult this engineered world order. Maybe a just and non-exploitative system rises from it ashes. Who knows?

It is the same Prophet (PBUH), who was on friendly terms with King Najashi, a Christian of modern day Ethiopia (then Abyssinia). It was Muhammad’s (PBUH) influence that forbade pillaging other religions’ places of worship, called to spare people seeking asylum in places of worship during warfare and ensured the sanctity of other religions and their followers more than 1,400 years ago, when there was no liberty, equality and fraternity in Europe; as it reeled under the tyranny of serfdom and human exploitation. There is more to learn.

Instead of escaping in criticising the great faith of millions of your citizens for political point-scoring, try to find and address the underlying causes of unrest in your country. It is the selective application of liberty, equality and fraternity. It is the racial profiling and discrimination against Muslims in your urban ghettos on a daily basis. It is the ubiquitous, endless media tirade and careless statement like these. It is the dissemination of hurtful material with mala-fide intentions. It is forcing majority of innocent fence-sitters in your country to take unnecessary sides, polarising a peaceful society. It is social inequality and lack of opportunity especially for your Muslim citizens that you and other French governments need to address. Hiding behind the thick wall of Islamophobia will never help.

Remember! It is for people like you that the beloved Prophet of Islam (PBUH) decreed, “Kindness is a mark of the faith, and whoever has no kindness, has no faith.” Let this hadith be your guide next time around you give a judgment on Islam. For now concentrate on the French economy.


In The Name Of Free Speech

By Fahad Hassan Chohan

November 04, 2020

Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins. This oft-quoted adage may have several variants — and a couple of famous personalities to attribute it to — but the point it drives does not have various interpretations. The West, in particular, is mature enough to pick the lesson behind this quotable quote pretty well. But, unfortunately, when it comes to Islam, this refined and educated part of the world ignores this basic lesson of decency and civility in the name of the so-called freedom of expression. Even most of those who lead the western world go the extreme of offensive remarks and sacrilegious acts when exercising what they call their fundamental right.

Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, did no good when he — while justifying the display of the blasphemous images of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a French classroom by a middle-school teacher, Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in retaliation a week later by an 18-year-old Muslim Russian immigrant in Paris suburbs — insisted on the secular character of the French society, in sheer disregard to the feelings of about 1.8 billion Muslims the world over.

Mind you this is the same French President who himself gets offended at criticism and jokes. Macron had fiery words to return to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after a joke about his wife was shared on Facebook. The irony is incredible. A man who cannot tolerate a mere joke on his wife goes all out in the defence of the absolutely derogatory images concerning the most sacred personality for Muslims. Whereas Macron should have exercised a statesmanlike maturity, he vowed not to “give up” the offensive images and insisted “Islamists want our future” — remarks that has stoked further tensions.

The Muslim world is enraged — and quite understandably so. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came up with severe criticism of his French counterpart and went to the extent of saying that he needs medical treatment. He also appealed to his people to shun French brands. Erdogan’s announcement was preceded days earlier by boycott calls in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world in protest against Macron’s provocation. Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad defended Muslims’ right to be angry and avenge themselves.

Angry reactions continue to pour in — from politicians, religious figures, academics and the common people — with some calling the French leader a “Satanist” and others reminding how “Macron is following in the centuries’ old tradition of Europeans telling Muslims how we need to interpret or live our religion … because of the actions of a handful of Muslims”.

While the French government has reignited the fire of Islamophobia, it should have rather worked to defuse tensions between religious communities — as also pointed out by our Prime Minister, Imran Khan. Describing Macron’s words as an “encouragement to Islamophobia”, the Prime Minister said this was the time for the French leader to have provided a “healing touch and denied space to extremists”.

In a highly matured reaction, Prime Minister Imran insists on unity among the Muslim world to counter Islamophobia. He has written to the leaders of Muslim-majority countries, asking them “to act collectively to counter growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states”. He mentioned the “dangerous cycle of actions and reactions [that is] set in motion” just because non-Muslims did not understand the “love and devotion Muslims all over the world have for their Prophet [PBUH] and their divine book the Holy Quran”.

Towards the conclusion, one would want to question the West’s double standards when exercising their birth right to free speech: What forces the westerns to tighten their lips when it comes to questioning the events related to Holocaust? Under what moral principles has Holocaust denial been outlawed in the West?



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