The Foreign Office (FO) on Monday summoned the French ambassador, Marc Baréty, to lodge a “strong protest” against the publication of blasphemous sketches and recent comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron.
In a statement, FO Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said that the ambassador was handed over a dossier by the special secretary (Europe).
The ambassador was told about Pakistan’s condemnation of the publication of blasphemous sketches and the comments later made by Macron, the spokesperson said.
On Wednesday, Macron had criticised Islamists and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The French president also contended that Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded recently for showing the blasphemous sketches, was “killed because Islamists want our future”.
In the days that followed the beheading, the caricatures were projected onto the facade of a building in one city and people displayed them at protests around the country.
The French envoy was conveyed Pakistan’s “deep concerns over the recent systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and desecration of the Holy Quran by certain irresponsible elements”, the FO spokesperson said.
It was underscored that such “illegal and Islamophobic acts” hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world and “could not be justified in the name of freedom of expression”, he added.
The ambassador was also told that Pakistan strongly condemned equating Islam with terrorism “for narrow electoral and political gains”, Chaudhry said, emphasising that such provocative statements and actions were fanning inter-religious hatred and confrontation.
“It was reiterated that freedom of expression should not be misused as [a] means to attack or hurt public sentiments or religious beliefs,” the spokesperson added.
“At a time of rising racism, intolerance and populism, there is a need to promote harmony among peoples and communities instead of reinforcing stereotypes and making people alienated.”
In a statement carried by Radio Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday that Macron’s irresponsible statement had added “fuel to the fire”.
“Nobody has the right to hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims under the guise of freedom of expression,” he said.
The foreign minister also urged the United Nations to take notice and called for action against the hate-based narrative against Islam, the report added.
In the statement released today, Qureshi added that a comprehensive resolution will be presented at the next Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers’ meeting proposing to observe March 15 as the International Day against Islamophobia.