Imran Khan pledges to lead international “blasphemy law” campaign
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Pakistan will lead an international campaign against religious “defamation” on 20 November, in an apparent attempt to place his administration at the forefront of efforts to counter Islamic “blasphemy” worldwide.
Speaking at the conference in Islamabad, which Radio Pakistan reported was to “promote religious harmony and tolerance”, Khan expressed his own admiration for Muhammad and asserted that nobody should be allowed to hurt the religious sentiments of billions of Muslims “under the garb of so-called free speech”.
During his address, he said, “Those who are unable to understand the philosophy of the life of the Holy Prophet [Muhammad, sic] have now become guardians of religion.”
Khan has faced criticism from hardliners within Pakistan in recent weeks for stating his support for the country’s Supreme Court which acquitted Aasia Bibi of “blasphemy” and ordered her release on 31 October. Aasia Bibi has been freed from prison but remains in Pakistan. Her lawyer told journalists she has not left the country because she does not have a visa or a foreign passport, although it has previously been reported that the Pakistani government placed her on “no fly” list in a concession to Islamist demonstrators.
In 2017, Pakistani government officials met with Facebook’s Vice President of Global Public to discuss “steps and actions being taken [by Facebook] to remove blasphemous content that is illegal in Pakistan” as part of a plan to introduce what would amount to a global Islamic “blasphemy” law in concert with 27 other Muslim-majority countries.