Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan wasn’t happy that a prophet Mohammed cartoon competition – now scrapped – was due to be held in the Netherlands in November.
In fact, he was so angry that he called on countries with large Muslim populations kick up a coordinated fuss at the United Nations.
According to the UK’s National Secular Society, Khan also called on “Muslim countries” to cooperate to pass laws against blasphemy similar to those prohibiting Holocaust denial in parts of Europe.
An NSS spokesperson said:
Blasphemy laws are never justifiable and Imran Khan’s appeals to hurt feelings are a classic tactic: the bully is playing the victim. The international community must see through this.
It is bad enough that Pakistan’s Prime Minister has courted the support of the religious right by defending the indefensible restrictions on free speech at home. For him to lead a campaign to silence people abroad is even more appalling.
If Pakistan, the OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] or anyone else wish to resurrect this non-issue we will use all our contacts to thwart their progress and push UN member states to resist them.
The NSS has had consultative status on the UN Economic and Social Council since 2016 and has previously joined alliances with other human rights organisations on this issue.
The NSS played a vital part in the repeal of the blasphemy law in England and Wales in 2008 and supports campaigns to repeal blasphemy laws worldwide. According to a report from the US government last year there were laws restricting freedom of expression on religious issues in 71 countries.
The OIC campaigned for a global blasphemy law at the UN from 1998 to 2011. In 2012 its Secretary-General said the effort would stop.
Khan’s comments came after Pakistan’s senate passed a resolution condemning the competition. Thousands of Islamists also rallied in Pakistan to protest against the contest – and one Islamic preacher said he would nuke Holland if he had the power.
It was then reported the contest was had been cancelled in the wake of death threats. Wilders was quoted here as saying:
I don’t want Muslims to use the cartoon competition as an excuse for Islamist violence.
Earlier last Thursday a man briefly appeared in a Dutch court on suspicion of planning to assassinate Wilders because of the competition. The 26-year-old appeared at a closed sitting in The Hague with prosecutors saying he is suspected of :
Committing a terrorist act, planning to commit murder and incitement.
Following the cancellation, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi hailed it as a “victory” for the Muslim world.
Cancellation of the blasphemous contest is a great moral victory of Muslim Ummah.
However, a defiant Geert Wilders, who organised the contest, warned Qureshi to not be too eager to claim a victory. Wilders tweeted:
Don’t claim victory too soon. I am not finished with you yet. I will expose your barbarism in many other ways.
Khan had said earlier that Westerners:
Don’t realise how their blasphemous activities hurt the sentiments of Muslims all over the world.
He added that laws against “blasphemy” should be similar to those which prevent Holocaust denial in parts of Europe.