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After Holocaust-denial precedent, Pakistan asks Facebook to ban anti-Islam posts

PM Imran Khan writes to Zuckerberg urging removal of all Islamophobic content; rails against France’s Macron for defending publication of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammed.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to The Associated Press, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, March 16, 2020.  (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to The Associated Press, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, March 16, 2020. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Khan’s on Sunday appealed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking the social media giant to take down Islamophobic content.

“Given the rampant abuse and vilification of Muslims on social media platforms, I would ask you to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust,” Khan wrote.

Facebook recently said it would ban content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

That move saw Zuckerberg backtrack on his controversial decision to defend posts denying the Holocaust as free speech.

Zuckerberg said he believed the new policy struck the “right balance” in drawing the lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech.

“I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” he wrote. “My own thinking has evolved as I’ve seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech.”

Khan’s appeal to Facebook comes in the midst of a spat with French President Emmanuel Macron, who he accused on Sunday of “attacking Islam,” after the European leader criticized Islamists and defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

A child holds a photograph of France’s President Emmanuel Macron, stamped with a shoe mark, during a protest against France in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Khan’s comments follow statements Macron made last week after a French teacher was beheaded near Paris after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet during a class he was leading on free speech.

Macron said the teacher “was killed because Islamists want our future.”

In a series of tweets, Khan said the remark would sow division.

“This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization,” Khan wrote.

“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.”

Macron already sparked controversy earlier this month when he said “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world”.

The French teacher became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material — the same images that sparked a bloody assault by Islamist gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the original publisher, in January 2015.

Caricatures of Muhammed are forbidden by Islam.

Blasphemy is an explosive issue in ultra-conservative Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty.

Illustrative: Pakistanis rally in support of Khalid Khan, who gunned down Tahir Naseem in courtroom, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, July 31, 2020. Naseem, a US citizen, was standing trial on a charge of blasphemy. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

“By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked & hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe & across the world,” Khan said.

In an address to the United Nations last month, Khan, a populist leader who has been known to play to Pakistan’s hardline religious base, blasted Charlie Hebdo for republishing the cartoons, saying “wilful provocations” should be “universally outlawed”.

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