Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for Muslim-majority countries to band together to lobby Western governments to criminalize the insulting of Islam’s prophet, as negotiations between his government and a far-right anti-blasphemy religious group continue.
In a televised address to the nation from the capital, Islamabad, on Monday, Khan said he would lead a campaign of Muslim-majority countries to “convince” Western countries on the issue of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.
“We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honour of the prophet,” Khan said.
“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.”
Khan likened the issue to that of the Holocaust, saying the Western nations had understood that questioning the Holocaust hurt the sentiments of the Jewish community, and that it needed to treat the issue of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a similar manner.
Khan’s address came as his government continued to negotiate on Monday with the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group, which held days of violent protests last week and abducted several police officers on Sunday as they continued their agitations on the issue of perceived “blasphemy” by the French President Emmanuel Macron.
Since November, the TLP has demanded that Pakistan expel the French ambassador over comments by Macron where he defended a publication’s right to republish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, an act considered “blasphemous” by some Muslims.
Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where certain forms of crime can carry a mandatory death sentence. Since 1990, at least 78 people have been murdered in mob violence and targeted attacks related to blasphemy accusations, according to an Al Jazeera tally. Here