ISLAMABAD: A possible diplomatic row between Pak­istan and France was ave­rted when federal Mini­ster for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Sunday removed her controversial tweet about French Presi­dent Emmanuel Macron after the authorities in Paris strongly reacted to it and the website issued a clarification about its article on the basis of which the minister had made the comment.

France’s foreign ministry “condemned” the minister’s remarks and called upon the Pakistan authorities to withdraw the comments in which Dr Mazari had alleged that the French president was treating Muslims in his country like Nazis had treated Jews during World War II.

Dr Mazari in her latest tweet stated that she had deleted her earlier tweet after receiving a message from Ambassador of France in Pakistan Marc Barety informing her that the said article published on themuslimvibe.com had been rectified.

In her tweet, Dr Mazari also posted the image of the French ambassador’s communication telling her about the clarification published by the author of the news report on the website.

“An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that ID numbers would be exclusively for Muslim children in France. This has been amended to reflect the fact that the draconian measures within the bill will be in place for all children in Macron’s bid to fight against what he has declared as ‘Islamist separatism’. We sincerely apologise for earlier error in reporting the facts of this story,” says the clarification posted on the website.

“Therefore, my authorities would appreciate your rectifying your Twitter statement as suggested,” wrote the French ambassador after reproducing the clarification of the news report.

Earlier, reacting strongly, spokeswoman for France’s Foreign Ministry Agnes von der Muhll said Pakistan “must rectify these remarks and return to the path of a dialogue based on respect”.

“These hateful words are blatant lies, imbued with an ideology of hatred and violence. Such slander is unworthy of this level of responsibility. We reject them with the greatest firmness,” Reuters news agency quoted the foreign ministry spokeswoman as saying. She also said that France had informed the Pakistan embassy of its “strong condemnation” of the comments.

The controversy erupted when in response to the article on the said website the human rights minister made a very strong comment on the policies of the French government in the backdrop of the tensions between the two countries over the publication of blasphemous images by a French magazine. The images sparked anger and protests not only in Pakistan but in many other Muslim countries also.

In reaction to the news article stating that the French government was planning to issue special identity numbers to the Muslim children, Dr Mazari on Saturday had tweeted: “Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews — Muslim children will get ID numbers (other children won’t) just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow star on their clothing for identification.”

Before withdrawing her tweet and following a condemnation by France’s foreign ministry, Dr Mazari posted another tweet stating: “Read link 4 source of story - if fake then get retraction of story published which I gave as link @FranceinPak instead of calling my tweet fake! Btw why are nuns allowed to wear their habit in public places but Muslim women not their hijab? Discrimination, n’est ce pas?”

French President Macron is facing renewed criticism in the Muslim world and abroad over his latest plans to tackle what he calls radical Islam, including asking Muslim leaders in his country to agree to a “charter of republican values”. He also pledged a crackdown against what he called “Islamist separatism” to defend France’s secular values and argued that controversial caricatures should be defended on free speech grounds.

Pakistan’s National Assembly last month passed a unanimous resolution urging the government to recall its ambassador from Paris, accusing Mr Macron of “hate-mongering” against Muslims. Later, it was revealed that Pakistan has no ambassador posted in Paris as its last ambassador Moinul Haq had left France three months ago when he was transferred and posted as ambassador to China.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2020

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