Paris Beheading: What Pakistan PM Needs to Understand About France

Francesca Marino
·5-min read

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has done it again, projecting himself (via Twitter) as a ‘protector of the faith’ and ‘champion of the Muslim world’: “This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.

It is unfortunate that he has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists. Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens, through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam & our Prophet PBUH.

By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe & across the world. The last thing the world wants or needs is further polarisation. Public statements based on ignorance will create more hate, Islamophobia & space for extremists”.

A few hours later, Turkish President Erdogan followed, saying during a speech: “What problem does this person called Macron have with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level.” And, back in Pakistan, simultaneously, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, founder and president of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, was calling to jihad against France on any available social media platform: “France is challenging you. Declare jihad” he was heard saying.

They are proposing, most probably, an alternative model of inclusive, democratic and civilised society. A society where, according to Pakistan's human rights groups, in the month of August, the police registered at least 40 blasphemy cases. Where most of these cases have been registered against Shia Muslims, and where in September, a Lahore court sentenced to death a Christian man with charges of blasphemy while, in July, another man on trial for blasphemy was shot dead in Peshawar in the same courtroom where the trial was going on.

Interesting to say, Rizvi has not been sanctioned in any way by his democratic government for inciting to murder people of a 'friendly' country. He is free to use Twitter, YouTube and Facebook like all his other fellow jihadis. Imran Khan wrote to Facebook, in fact, just to accuse other countries of Islamophobia and to ask for the ban of contents 'offensive' against Muslims. The others should not take offense for being regularly insulted (or killed) by his country fellows. This campaign started less than a month ago, when the burning of French flags, calls for jihad and hate speeches in Pakistan, endorsed by Imran Khan and his Foreign Minister Shah Maqmood Qureshi, resulted in the the stabbing of two journalists in front of the former office of the satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo. After that, another Islamic integralist beheaded a school teacher, Samuel Paty, who showed Charlie Hebdo's cartoons to his students. Days later, in Montpellier, the cartoons appeared, as a mark of protest against stabbing and beheading, on governative buildings.

And President Macron announced tougher laws to tackle what he called "Islamist separatism" and defend the secular values of the country. But while a French Muslim called Karim Akouche wrote: “Stop calling me brother” in an 'Open letter to Allah's soldier” to defend the values of the country where he was born, many people reacted saying, “Charlie Hebdo offended and provoked Muslims” and so does Macron. In their opinion, apparently, stabbing and killing is just an unfortunate buyout obvious consequence of it: stop doing it, give them what they want and everything will be all right.

What they don't get is that France is a secular country. Europe is a secular entity. An entity where people fought not to include the 'christian roots' of Europe in any declaration. Where 'secular' means that for the State there are no Christians, Muslims, Jews or Buddists or whatever else, but only citizens. And those citizens are expected to abide to the Constitution and to the law, bound to follow the same rules. If you are asking for a special treatment because of your religion, you got it totally wrong. “My dear countrymen, the battle for the Republic is, in this moment, the battle for secularism” -- this is how the Macron addressed the country at the beginning of September, in occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Third French republic.

On the same occasion, Macron made many reference to the Charlie Hebdo trial, that had just started, and to the values of the Republic, the values inherited from the French Revolution, the values that should and must be shared by any citizen of the country. Or any guest. Libertè, egalitè and fraternitè: none of them, according to Macron, is possible without secularism and freedom of speech. And he is totally right. The battle for secularism, the battle for the values shared by all Europe, the values of the French Revolution, the values shared practically by all the European countries are not negotiable. Europe guarantees and protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech and non-discrimination on a religious or racial base. If you don't like a cartoon or a movie, simply don't buy it or don't watch it. There have been battles in the past, both in France and in Italy, for movies or satirical cartoons targeting the Catholic Church: thousands of cartoons depicting the Virgin or Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church tried to stop them (not stabbing anybody but using Tribunals) and regularly lost any of its battles.

What Imran Khan, Erdogan, Rizvi and their goons don't get is that Europeans can agree or not with the low grade, gross humor of Charlie Hebdo, but will do everything to protect their freedom of expression and their secular, democratic institutions.

. Read more on Opinion by The Quint.Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For YouParis Beheading: What Pakistan PM Needs to Understand About France . Read more on Opinion by The Quint.