Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday emphasised that religion has no link to terrorism and that it is “marginalisation of communities [that] leads to radicalisation”.
Pakistan and Turkey co-hosted a round table discussion on hate speech, a side event in the margins of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The prime minister along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, addressed the conference, which also featured a Key Note address by High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) Miguel Ángel Moratinos.
In his remarks, the premier noted the growing amount of “discrimination and violence based on religion and belief”, a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said.
To this end, he called upon the need for addressing “both the drivers and consequences of these phenomena”.
PM Imran also cautioned against the denigration of revered personalities under the guise of “freedom of expression and opinion”.
“The world must understand Muslim sensitivities for Islam and the reverence for Prophet Muhammad PBUH,” he said.
He underscored the need for effective measures to be put in place so that hate speech, especially that which stems from Islamophobia, can be countered.
“Marginalisation of any community leads to radicalisation,” the PMO statement quoted the premier as saying.
The prime minister, during his address, said that “desperate human beings” throughout history have committed what are known as suicide attacks. “Before 9/11, 75 per cent of suicide attacks were by Tamil Tigers who were Hindus. No one talked about Hinduism having anything to do with suicide attacks.”
He said when Japanese suicide bombers attacked American ships during World War II, no one blamed their religion.
“Because religion has nothing to do with […] no religion has anything to do with terrorism,” he stressed.
“Almost all terrorism is connected to politics. It is politically perceived injustices that produce desperate people.
“But now we keep hearing about radical Islam. There is only one Islam. The Islam of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which we follow. There is no other Islam.”
He said that in communities, a majority of individuals are moderates with liberals on one end of the spectrum and fanatics on the other end and it was the same case in societies everywhere.
“What about the white supremacist that killed 49 worshippers in New Zealand? What has that got to do with religion?” he went on to say, appealing to the better sense of all those listening.
The premier urged the need to recognise that a greater understanding and tolerance between various communties across the globe needs to be promoted. “We Muslim leaders have not explained to the Western societies how painful it is when our Prophet is maligned, mocked, ridiculed.”
“Why does it cause so much pain? Because the Prophet lives in our hearts. And we all know that the pain of the heart is far, far, far greater than physical pain,” he explained.
He said that the UN, as a platform, provides the right space “to evolve an informed discourse on countering hate speech”.
President Erdogan said that hate speech “emerges before worst crimes against humanity” and observed that Muslims remain the most vulnerable community to hate speech in the world.
He cited incidents in India where Muslims had been “lynched for eating beef”.
“Kashmir has been turned into an open prison. We fear blood shed there,” the Turkish president further remarked.
According to a handout by the UNAOC, the high-level roundtable “is aimed at identifying measures and approaches required to effectively address and mitigate the impacts of hate speech on societies across the world, with a view to fostering tolerance and inclusivity”.
English channel to combat Islamophobia
Following the session, the prime minister announced the formation of an English language channel in partnership with Turkey and Malaysia.
“President Erdogan, PM Mahatir and myself had a meeting today in which we decided our 3 countries would jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record straight on our great religion — Islam,” wrote PM Imran in a post on Twitter.
He said that the channel’s efforts would be geared towards removing “misperceptions which bring people together against Muslims”.
The prime minister also said that the issue of blasphemy would be properly contextualised in the content presented by the channel which will also produce series and films on Muslim history to not only educate the world but also Muslims themselves.
“Muslims would be given a dedicated media presence,” he added.