Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday denounced what he called was "encouragement of Islamophobia" by French President Emmanuel Macron, saying the European leader had chosen to "deliberately provoke" Muslims, including his own citizens.
In a series of tweets, the premier said that the sign of a leader was that he united people, like former South African president Nelson Mandela. "This is a time when President Macron could have put [a] healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation," he said.
The premier regretted that the French president had instead chosen to encourage Islamophobia by "attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists".
He was referring to comments made on Wednesday by President Macron in which he criticised Islamists and vowed not to "give up cartoons" depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He also contended that Samuel Paty — a teacher who was beheaded last month for showing sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) — was "killed because Islamists want our future".
Prime Minister Imran said that "by attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world".
"The last thing the world wants or needs is further polarisation. Public statements based on ignorance will create more hate, Islamophobia and space for extremists," he added.
PTI ministers also denounced Macron's remarks on Twitter. Planning Minister Asad Umar said that freedom of expression was not without limits, pointing out that 16 European countries criminalise denial of the Jewish holocaust. He also observed that it was a criminal offence to insult the monarch in the United Kingdom.
"Allowing people free reign to insult the Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) under the garb of freedom of expression while protecting institutions and history sacrosanct to other religious beliefs and national symbols is pure hypocrisy and condemnable," he said.
Minister for Science Fawad Chaudhry said that "France's foolish extremists do not hold world peace dear and they are doing unacceptable acts".
"Respect of the Prophet (PBUH) is part of our faith. Understand this well and understand that the peace of the world is connected to recognising and understanding each others' beliefs," he tweeted.
A day earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Macron over his policies towards Muslims, saying that the French president needed "mental checks".
"What can one say about a head of state who treats millions of members from different faith groups this way: first of all, have mental checks," Erdogan said in a televised address.
The French presidency reacted hours later with a statement that said, "excess and rudeness are not a method" and "we are not accepting insults."
Using unusually strong language, the French presidency said, "we demand Erdogan to change his policy, which is dangerous in all aspects."
Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, called Macron’s words "irresponsible" on Friday, and said they would "increase the spread of a culture of hatred".
Jordan’s foreign ministry said it condemns the "continued publication of caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) under the pretext of freedom of expression" and any "discriminatory and misleading attempts that seek to link Islam with terrorism".