PM Imran urges world leaders to act against Islamophobia

Published June 13, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan told CBC that he had raised the issue with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau. — Reuters/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan told CBC that he had raised the issue with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has called upon the world leaders to crack down on online hate speech and Islamophobia following the deadly truck attack in London, Ontario, Canada.

“Everyone is shocked in [Pakistan], because we saw the family picture, and so a family being targeted like that has had a deep impact in Pakistan,” Prime Minister Khan told the CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview posted on its website on Saturday. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is the main news outlet in Canada.

The prime minister said the recent pattern of domestic terror in Western countries demanded a heightened focus on online radicalisation.

To a question about online radicalisation, he said: “I think there should be a very strict action against this. When there are these hate websites which create hatred amongst human beings, there should be an international action against them.”

Says recent pattern of domestic terror in Western countries demands heightened focus on online radicalisation

Four members of a Pakistani Canadian family were mercilessly mauled down and a nine-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when they were run over by a pickup truck in London, Ontario, last Sunday evening.

Canadian police say the family was targeted because they were Muslim. The family had moved to Canada from Pakistan in 2007.

After the tragic incident, the prime minister took to Twitter to express his feelings. “Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism revealed the growing Islamophobia in Western countries,” he said, adding that Islamophobia needed to be countered holistically by the international community.

Prime Minister Khan told CBC that he had raised the issue with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, describing him as a leader who understood the importance of fighting online hate and Islamophobia. He urged other leaders to also make such commitment. “The world leaders, whenever they decide upon taking action, this will be dealt with,” he said.

He said he “mostly agrees” with Mr Trudeau and his position on extremism, but also expressed concern over some Canadian laws that he believed were contributing to Islamophobia.

Mr Khan described Quebec’s Bill 21 which bans public servants, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols at work, as a form of “secular extremism” that had led to intolerance against Muslims.

“You want humans to basically be free to express the way they want to be, as long as it doesn’t cause pain and hurt to other human beings,” he emphasised.

Earlier in his address at the United Nations General Assembly last year, Mr Khan had cautioned against the rising tide of Islamophobia in the world and called upon the UN to play its part in combatting religious hatred.

In his virtual address, the prime minister had regretted that at a time when the global community should have come together to combat novel coronavirus, it had instead stoked racism and religious hatred. “Unfortunately, it has instead fanned nationalism, increased global tensions and given rise to racial and religious hatred and violence against vulnerable minorities in several places.

Islamophobia was rising in several countries, he had warned, as Muslims were being “targeted with impunity”, mosques were being desecrated and Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was being disrespected “in the name of freedom of speech”.

He had stressed that willful provocations and incitement to hate and violence must be universally outlawed, and urged the UNGA to “declare an international day to combat Islamophobia”.

Yumna Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, were out for an evening walk when they were run over by the truck driven by 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman who, police said, was motivated by anti-Muslim hate.

Veltman had participated in online activity that promoted extremism or violence.

The perpetrators of other recent mass killings such as the 2017 gun attack at a Quebec City mosque and the 2018 Yonge Street van attack in Toronto had taken part in online activities that are believed by investigators to have contributed to their radicalisation.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau had pledged to crack down on online hate speech when he introduced a new digital charter in 2019, though critics say Ottawa had been slow to implement changes that could stop online radicalisation.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021

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