FM Qureshi denounces French magazine's decision to republish blasphemous sketches

Updated 03 Sep 2020

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In a video message shared by Radio Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the caricatures hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world. — AP/File
In a video message shared by Radio Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the caricatures hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world. — AP/File

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday denounced French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's decision to republish largely controversial sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In a video message shared by Radio Pakistan, the foreign minister said that the blasphemous caricatures hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world.

He added that the act was carried out without any reason and no amount of condemnation was enough. "We are seeing a rise in Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia across the world and Pakistan has highlighted this at all forums."

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had also highlighted the issue during his speech at United Nations General Assembly in New York last year.

"Pakistan is a democratic country and a democracy believes in freedom of expression. But freedom of expression does not give you the licence to harm the sentiments of others."

He added that Pakistan had conveyed its concerns to the French government.

On Tuesday, Charlie Hebdo, the target of a massacre by gunmen in 2015, said it was republishing hugely controversial sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to mark this week’s start of the trial of alleged accomplices to the attack.

The cover of the new issue showed a dozen sketches of Holy Prophet (PBUH), reproducing images that sparked protests when they were first published and a debate about the limits of freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said that "no amount of condemnation was enough to castigate" Charlie Hebdo for its decision to republish the sketches.

"Freedom of expression does not give you license to hurt the emotions and sentiments of Muslims around the world."

He added that the last few years had seen an "unprecedented increase in Islamophobia and incidents of racial profiling".

"More than anything else, the world needs interfaith harmony in promoting peace and shared values. This decision will widen the gulf and lead to unintended consequences," he said.

France has freedom of expression, says Macron

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was not his place to pass judgment on Charlie Hebdo's decision to republish sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), saying France had freedom of expression.

But Macron, speaking on a visit to Lebanon, said it was incumbent on French citizens to show civility and respect for each other, and avoid a “dialogue of hate".

“It’s never the place of a president of the republic to pass judgment on the editorial choice of a journalist or newsroom, never. Because we have freedom of the press,” Macron said.

FO condemns decision

The Foreign Office (FO) had also “condemned in the strongest terms” the decision by the French magazine.

Taking to Twitter on Tuesday, FO Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri stated that the decision of the French magazine would amount to undermining the global desire for peaceful co-existence and was a threat to social and interfaith harmony.

“Pakistan condemns in the strongest terms the decision by the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, to republish deeply offensive caricatures of Holy Prophet (PBUH),” the FO spokesman tweeted.

“Such a deliberate act to offend the sentiments of billions of Muslims cannot be justified as an exercise in press freedom or freedom of expression,” said Chaudhri.