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Pakistan Summons French Envoy, PM Asks Facebook to Ban Islamophobic Content

Pakistan Summons French Envoy, PM Asks Facebook to Ban Islamophobic Content

Monday, 26 October, 2020 - 10:30
Empty shelves of French cosmetic products at a Kuwaiti supermarket following a call for a boycott on French goods, in Kuwait City, on October 25, 2020. © Ahmed Hagagy, Reuters

Pakistan on Monday summoned the French ambassador in Islamabad, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan accused French President Emmanuel Macron of attacking Islam by defending the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Morocco has also condemned the caricatures.

The Pakistani foreign office on Monday confirmed that it summoned the French ambassador in Islamabad and had issued a statement saying, "Pakistan condemns systematic Islamophobic campaign under the garb of freedom of expression."

Khan's comments Sunday came after Macron paid tribute to Samuel Paty, a French teacher who was beheaded by a radical for displaying cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on freedom of expression.

The summons in Islamabad came a day after the Moroccan foreign ministry issued a similar statement condemning the beheading, but adding that “freedom of expression cannot, for any reason, justify the insulting provocation and the insulting offense of the Muslim religion”.

Macron has defended the right to display the caricatures and French media have republished them; in some places, they were even projected on buildings

Khan called on Facebook to ban Islamophobic content on its platform, warning of a spike in radicalization amongst Muslims, hours after he hit out at the French president for "attacking Islam".

Khan, in an open letter posted on Twitter on Sunday, said "growing Islamophobia" was encouraging extremism and violence worldwide, especially through social media platforms such as Facebook.

"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 said.

This month, Facebook said it was updating its hate speech policy to ban content that denied or distorted the Holocaust.

"One cannot send a message that while hate messages against some are unacceptable, these are acceptable against others," Khan said, adding such a stance was "reflective of prejudice and bias that will encourage further radicalization".

In response, a Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters the company opposed all forms of hate and did not allow attacks based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.

"We'll remove this hate speech as soon as we become aware of it," the spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that Facebook had "more work to do".

Facebook's last transparency report for the six months to December 2019, showed that Pakistan was the source of the second-highest number of requests to curb content after Russia.

A source with direct knowledge of the issue at Facebook told Reuters that the most requests for the removal of content relating to Islam came from Pakistan.

Facebook traditionally complies, as not doing so would be to break Pakistan´s laws, the source said, adding that authorities would often send dozens of links at a time and demand they be taken down.

In his letter, Khan also referred to the situation in France, where, he said, Islam was being associated with terrorism.

France has a long tradition of caricatures taking on political and religious authorities. But recent comments by French politicians, such as a complaint by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin about religious food aisles in French supermarkets, have sparked controversy in many parts of the Muslim world.

France has faced a backlash over the cartoons, including boycotts of French products with the hashtag #BoycottFrenchProducts in English and “for the Messenger of Allah” in Arabic trending on Twitter over the weekend.

On Sunday, France urged Arab countries to stop calls for boycotts of French products.

"These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority," the statement said.

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