Imran asks OIC to counter Islamophobia

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged the Orga­nisation of Islamic Coopera­tion (OIC) to vehemently counter Islamophobia and falsely equating of Islam with radicalism and terrorism.

He also took serious note of the recent European Parliament’s resolution to review GSP plus status of Pakistan and said the government would hold negotiation with the European Union (EU) to delink the country’s GSP Plus status with blasphemy issues.

The prime minister presided over two meetings — one with over 30 OIC ambassadors and the other with the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders.

When contacted, Infor­mation Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that during the meeting with OIC envoys, the prime minister told them that Muslim countries had so far failed to convince the West that blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) hurt the sentiments of over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and was not an issue of freedom of expression.

He was of the view that whenever an incident of terrorism occurred, the West maligned the entire Muslim world which was absolutely wrong.

“An act of any individual should not be called an act of the entire Ummah,” he added.

PM Khan said Islam and the whole Muslim world strongly condemned terrorism perpetrated by any one and in any form and manifestation.

“But the whole Muslim Ummah should not be blamed for an act of an individual. Linking Islam with terrorism is absolutely unjustified,” he added.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Mr Khan met Islamabad-based ambassadors of countries belonging to the OIC to discuss ways to combat Islamophobia and promote interfaith harmony.

Mentioning the two letters addressed by him to the leaders of the Islamic world last year, the prime minister briefed the envoys on Pakistan’s efforts at the international level to create awareness of Islamophobia and the need to collectively address the phenomenon.

He emphasised that Pakistan’s initiatives were aimed at building mutual understanding and promoting interfaith harmony.

Noting that Islamophobic acts fan inter-religious hatred and disharmony among civilisations, the prime minister called for addressing the underlying reasons for the rise in such incidents worldwide.

“Falsely equating Islam with radicalism and terrorism was leading to marginalisation and stigmatisation of Muslims,” he added.

The prime minister said vilification of Islamic precepts and religious personalities, wrongly justified under the garb of the right to freedom of expression or opinion, hurt sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims.

He urged the OIC to work together for making the international community understand the deep-rooted love and reverence of all Muslims for the Holy Prophet and the Quran.

Mr Khan also underlined the need for instituting legal safeguards aimed at protecting the sensitivities of all religious groups and underscored the imperative of OIC’s collective efforts to project the true image of Islam and its message of peace and tolerance.

He reaffirmed that Pakistan remained committed to dialogue and cooperation with all members of the international community for promoting universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence among all nations and peoples.

GSP Plus status

In a separate meeting with PTI leaders, the prime minister vowed to take up the issue of blasphemy with the EU and ask it not to link the matter with GSP Plus status of Pakistan, a source in the PMO Office said.

On April 30, the European Parliament had adopted a resolution calling for a review of the GSP+ status granted to Pakistan in view of an ‘alarming’ increase in the use of blasphemy accusations in the country as well as rising number of online and offline attacks on journalists and civil society organisations.

The resolution also called on Pakistan to “unequivocally condemn” incitement to violence and discrimination against religious minorities in the country and expressed “deep concern” at the prevailing anti-French sentiment in Pakistan.

According to the resolution reported in the media, the EU Parliament “calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to the European Parliament on this matter as soon as possible”.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2021

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