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Pakistan: Prime Minister says blasphemy should be declared crime globally


ISLAMABAD, (The News): Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Friday demanded the international community to declare blasphemy a punishable crime on the global level.

Addressing the Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh) Conference at the PM Secretariat, Pervaiz Ashraf said President Asif Ali Zardari would convey the emotions and views of the people of Pakistan when he would address the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

“We are demanding that the United Nations and other international organisations seek a law that bans such hate speech aimed at fomenting hatred and sowing the seeds of discord,” he maintained.

Pervaiz Ashraf said the making of the profane film was not about freedom of expression, but was an expression of blatant hatred. He termed the production of the blasphemous film a clear reflection of double standards maintained by the West, saying that defaming the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in the name of freedom of expression was totally unacceptable.

The prime minister said the Muslim Ummah needed to stand united and seek a permanent solution to ban hate speeches that sowed seeds of discord. He said the Muslim world needed to work together with other countries towards a mechanism that ensured respect of the sentiments of people of all religions.

“There is a need to translate the strong sentiments into a unified policy, in coordination with other Muslim countries, so that the Muslim Ummah speaks with one voice on this issue,” the PM said. “Our demand is simple: blasphemy of the kind witnessed in this case is nothing short of hate speech, equal to the worst kind of anti-Semitism or other kinds of bigotry,” he said.

Prime Minister Raja termed the film a grave violation of all basic norms of humanity, international law, interfaith harmony and UN Conventions on religious freedom, tolerance and civilised conduct. “For us as Muslims, respect and reverence for prophets of other religions is part of our cardinal beliefs. We hope and expect similar respect and reverence for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),” he categorically stated.

The premier said that the anger and anguish was even more deep after the discovery that “this [production of blasphemous film] was a deliberate, premeditated act of mischief-mongers based on bias, hatred and prejudice.”

“Let me make it absolutely clear: this is not about freedom of expression, this is more about hatred, and it also demonstrates blatant double-standards,” the PM added. “If denying the Holocaust is a crime, then is it not fair and legitimate for Muslims to demand that denigrating and demeaning Islam’s holiest personality is no less a crime?”

The prime minister appreciated those in the international community who had joined Muslims in strongly condemning the act. He rejected the justification that any attempt to defame religiously revered personalities was permitted under freedom of expression. He said no law, philosophy or morality permitted that personalities who had the highest of the stature and were revered by Muslims, be defamed by any means. He said the stature of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) couldn’t be discredited by anyone, despite their nefarious attempts, as the Prophet has the blessings of the Almighty Allah.

The prime minister lamented increasing number of incidents of blasphemy in the recent past by those who wished to create chaos in the world. He said the Holy Prophet (pbuh) gave a message of peace and harmony and was a personality revered by billions around the world for teaching love and respect to the humanity. “He is paramount to the principles of our great faith of peace, tolerance and harmony and central to the beliefs of Muslims,” the PM maintained. He said an attack on the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims, and was unacceptable. “Our faith remains incomplete without total devotion and reverence to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),” he added.

Pervaiz Ashraf said the world today was reeling from the impact of extremism and terrorism and anything that further ignited the religious sentiments of any religion would further aggravate the situation.

He appealed to the nation to maintain peace and avoid violence. “It is our collective responsibility to protest peacefully without causing harm or damage to life and property,” he added.

He urged the nation to ensure that the lives and properties of foreigners, their embassies and properties in the country be protected at all cost. He said the government was working hard to achieve inter-faith harmony and ensuring that minorities in the country were fully protected and could participate in the progress and development of the country, side by side their Muslim brethren.

The premier said Pakistan was the only country that officially took up the matter of the anti-Islam film at the international level, observed Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool, declared a holiday, banned YouTube and passed a resolution by its parliament, to protest the blasphemous act. He said the government had also called for an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to find a solution to the problem.

The Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh) Conference was attended by a large number of religious scholars, Ulema, parliamentarians, leaders of political parties and people from all walks of life. The gathering showered praise on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his teachings and life.

Similar conferences were also held in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta and were attended by Ulema, religious scholars and a large number of people from all walks of life.

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