Imran Khan has told Western countries to stop hurting the feelings of Muslims by allowing what would be classed in Pakistan as blasphemy against the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
In comments reported by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, he reiterated his call for Muslim countries to unite and issue trade boycotts against countries with more liberal freedom of speech laws, until such laws are reformed to better respect the teachings of Islam.
“My way is to take heads of all Muslim countries into confidence,” Khan announced on Monday.
“Together we should ask Europe, the European Union and United Nations to stop hurting the feelings of 1.25 billion Muslims like they do not do in [the] case of Jews.
“I want the Muslim countries to devise a joint line of action over the blasphemy issue with a warning of trade boycott of countries where such incidents will happen,” Khan declared. “This will be the most effective way to achieve the goal.”
The Pakistani premier revealed that his foreign minister has already discussed the joint attack with four counterparts of Muslim-majority nations.
Khan made similar incendiary remarks last week when he blasted “extremists abroad who indulge in Islamophobia and racist slurs”, warning those who insult Islam that Muslims “cannot tolerate any such disrespect and abuse.”
A former British foreign minister has hailed the comments as “foolish” and suspects they are more for a domestic audience than a real threat issued to Western nations.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the Mail: “It is not countries that insult the Prophet Mohammed, it’s individual citizens. However distasteful that might be, as in Pakistan it is the law of the United Kingdom or any other country to determine whether they are allowed to do that or not,” Sir Malcolm said.
“The comparison with the Holocaust doesn’t really carry weight. If the Holocaust happened elsewhere, something similar, the reaction should be exactly the same as the reaction has been to the Holocaust during the Second World War.”
“I suspect, I don’t obviously know, but I suspect this is being done more for domestic consumption within Pakistan, because it is a point of view that might command quite considerable support there from what we’ve seen in the past, and Imran Khan is not as popular today as he was when he first became PM,” added Rifkind.
“It is entirely likely that he is not terribly interested in the reaction in Britain or America or France or Germany – he’s interested in the reaction in Pakistan,” he concluded.
Pakistan is infamous for its draconian blasphemy laws, and just last week two Christian nurses were arrested and potentially face the death penalty after being accused of desecrating a sticker displaying a verse from the Koran from the locker of a Muslim colleague.