Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday condemned the fresh publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by a French satirical magazine, urging the United Nations (UN) to take action against what he called rising Islamophobia.
The original publication of the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine caused a storm of anger across the Muslim world as many Muslims consider physical depictions of their prophet to be blasphemous and deserving of the most severe punishment.
In his virtual address to the UN General Assembly, Khan lamented that at a time when the global community should have come together to combat coronavirus, it had instead stoked racism and religious hatred, Dawn reported.
The PM said that Muslims “continue to be targeted with impunity in many countries”.
In January 2015, following the publication of the cartoons, 12 people were killed in an attack by Islamist gunmen on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris.
The murderers were seeking vengeance on the magazine and its artists for publishing the “blasphemous” cartoons.
“This assembly should declare an international day to combat Islamophobia,” said Khan.
Charlie Hebdo, famous for its irreverent and satirical humour, in a defiant gesture timed to coincide with the trial this month of accomplices to the massacre, reprinted some of the original cartoons.
In anticipation of further revenge attacks, the location of the magazine’s new office is being kept secret.
Blasphemy is an especially sensitive subject in Pakistan. Asia Bibi, a Christian, spent a decade on death row after being falsely accused of blasphemy before being freed by a Supreme Court ruling. She later fled to Canada before claiming asylum in France.
Khan also decried anti-Muslim sentiment in India, which he claimed is “the one country in the world where the state sponsors Islamophobia”.
He described how the incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party seek “racial purity” of Hindus to the detriment of Muslims.
Khan stated, “The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the oneness of humanity. No one is safe unless everyone is safe.”