Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for an international convention banning speech deemed insulting to Muslims and claimed there does not exist any historical “mention” of Jesus.
Khan, a former cricketer with a reputation as a playboy, whose first wife has Jewish roots, has worked to portray himself as a devout Muslim in recent years since becoming one of Pakistan’s most prominent political figures.
His growing popularity and selection as premier in the July elections — marred by accusations of military interference and vote-rigging — have come amid a backdrop of a growing movement in Muslim-majority Pakistan against alleged blasphemy.
In a speech on November 20 marking the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Khan denigrated prophets from Judaism and Christianity who are also revered in Islam, claiming that — unlike Muhammad — there was “no mention of them” in history.
“There were prophets of Allah other [than Muhammad], but there is no mention of them in human history. There is negligible mention of them. Moses is mentioned, but there is no mention of Jesus in history,” he said, according to a translation posted Thursday by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“But the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah’s last prophet, is part of history,” Khan added.
Pakistani PM Imran Khan Says "No Mention of Jesus in History," Announces Intl. Anti-Blasphemy Convention: The West Should Be Made to Understand Our Love for Muhammad pic.twitter.com/i8C6wVzbIb
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) November 27, 2018
Turning to periodic outbursts of anger over the publication of cartoons and other satirical portrayals of Muhammad, Khan said the often violent reactions were being used to tarnish Islam.
“Every few years, in some Western country, our dear Prophet is blasphemed against and dishonored. What is the consequence of this? Muslims become angry. We take to the streets in protest, [protesters] break things in our country… It enables the enemies of Muslims to tell people in the West: ‘See, Islam is a big religion that spreads violence,'” he said.
“They get an opportunity to spread propaganda against Islam.”
Khan credited the intervention of his foreign minister with the cancellation earlier this year of a Mohammad cartoon competition in the Netherlands planned by a far-right politician.
He also said Pakistan’s lobbying on the issue to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations was leading to less tolerance for alleged blasphemy in the West.
“Something happened that had never happened before. The European Union’s Human Rights Court said for the first time that you cannot hurt somebody’s religion under the pretext of freedom of speech, and especially it said that you cannot blaspheme against Muhammad’s honor,” he said.
Khan was referring to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last month that an Austrian court’s conviction of a woman for comparing Muhammad’s marriage to an underage girl to pedophilia was not a violation of her right to freedom of speech.
The Pakistani prime minister called for countries around the globe to adopt an “International Convention on Preventing the Defamation of Religions,” which he said would ensure that “freedom of speech cannot be used as a pretext to hurt the world’s 1.25 billion Muslims.”
Khan vowed Pakistan would play a leading role in this effort and “Allah willing… for the first time in the world get this convention signed.”
Khan’s speech came amid unrest in Pakistan following the acquittal last month of a Christian woman who had previously been sentenced to death for blasphemy.
Asia Bibi’s case has inflamed radical Islamists, some of whom are calling for her death.
Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik party launched nationwide protests demanding Bibi’s public execution and the party’s founder, Mohammad Afzal Qadri, called for the death of the three Supreme Court judges who ruled to acquit her. Qadri also called for the overthrow of the Pakistan government. Protests ended after the government agreed to a Supreme Court review. Khan has gone on national television saying that the Supreme Court’s decision will be final and upheld.
Agencies contributed to this report.