Dr Shireen Mazari's Response to Daily Mail after they misquote PM Imran Khan | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

Response to Daily Mail story of 27 April 2021 on PM Khan’s speech.


The Daily Mail on 27 April published a highly politicized and biased news report on PM Khan’s speech a day earlier, which was factually incorrect. Whether it was simply a lack of understanding of Urdu, in which the PM spoke, by the reporter or a deliberate distortion to target Pakistan’s leader can be a value judgement. However, what is clear is that the British tabloid remains embedded in a colonial mindset which cannot accept anyone from an ex-colony actually calling out the West on its growing hypocrisy on human rights alongside a rising tide of Islamophobia that is now increasingly acceptable amongst mainstream political discourse in these countries. The tone and tenor of the news story itself is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent what the PM actually said as well as deliberately ignore the context of his speech.


What the PM did not say was that he would ask all Muslim states to unite and force Western governments to adopt Blasphemy laws or else there would be trade boycotts by the Muslim states collectivity. Unlike Western states, we do not issue imperialist-style threats of “or else”. So what did the PM actually say and in what context?


First, the context: It has to be clearly understood by people and governments in the West that any slight even, let alone ridicule or abuse, of our Prophet Peace Be Upon Him, by anyone evokes unbridled passion and anger. The love we Muslims have for our Prophet Peace Be Upon Him is all in all for us and almost every Muslim would willingly lay down his/her life in defence of our Prophet Peace Be Upon Him.


Pakistan had been in a state of uproar over the continuous publication of blasphemous material in Europe, especially in France with the French government insisting this was all part of freedom of speech. An extremist party sought to exploit the people’s sentiments. Demands in Pakistan, including in the parliament, were rising to expel the French envoy with some even demanding breaking diplomatic relations with France. For the first time PM Khan’s government took strong action against the extremist party – arresting its leadership and banning the party under the anti-terrorism law. Alongside, to contain the growing public outrage against the West, the Prime Minister addressed the nation. This is what he said:


One: that we all – government and the public – have the same goal which is to ensure that the West does not abuse our Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and ridicule our faith Islam all under the guise of “freedom of speech”. But PM Khan pointed out that his government’s approach was different from the path of violence and terror adopted by the extremist TLP party. 


Two: He pointed out how he had raised his voice against Islamophobia at every international forum and had written to Muslim leaders to come together to fight growing Islamophobia in the West, which was directly targeting Muslim citizens in these countries as well as arousing strong reactions in Muslims across the globe. 


Three: He committed to again seeking to unify the Muslim world to ask of the West to end the Islamophobia and abuse of our Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and ridicule of our faith. Freedom of speech, he made clear, was not unlimited and this farce of justifying abuse of Islam under this pretext must stop. 


Four: He stated that together Muslim states must use available political and economic means to get the Western states to protect not only their own Muslim citizens against Islamophobia but also to protect Islam and its Prophet Peace Be Upon Him, from abuse and ridicule. 


Five: Nowhere did he say the West needs to have blasphemy laws – which by the way many European states had till recently! What he did ask for from the West was that just as some European countries have laws forbidding even debate on the holocaust, similar laws should be in place to prevent abuse and ridicule of Islam and its Prophet Peace Be Upon Him.


Now why should all this arouse such absurd hysteria from the Daily Mail? If banning all debate on the holocaust is not a denial of freedom of speech why shouldn’t a ban on abuse of Islam and its Prophet Peace Be Upon Him be equally kosher and not seen as an infringement of freedom of speech. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights makes clear that freedom of speech is not unlimited and there have been European Court decisions to the same effect. 


Just as EU countries, the US and many other Western states use economic, political and military means to press other states to act in a fashion desired by them, why shouldn’t the Muslim collectivity use the same means to negotiate with the West? Why is that seen as “forcing the West” but even sanctions by the West against many Muslims states are seen as acceptable practice of inter-state relations? This racist, imperialist hypocrisy is unacceptable and the sooner the tabloids abroad realise that, the better. At the very least, some basic honesty should be there in news stories if not in opinion pieces. This is what is clearly missing in the news story on PM Khan’s speech. I guess the speech touched a raw nerve because it challenged the underlying colonial ethos that still dominates the Western media. How dare a brown man, an Asian, seek to challenge the hypocrisy and hate underlying Islamophobia in the West! Well Khan dares.


--- Shireen M Mazari