A French police officer stands next to a portrait of teacher Samuel Paty in Montpellier on Oct. 21 during a national homage to the teacher who was beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in his civics class. (Photo: AFP)
Church leaders have joined Pakistani authorities in condemning French authorities for projecting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad onto government buildings.
The controversial caricatures from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were displayed for several hours on Oct. 21 as part of a tribute to history teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by a Muslim student just days after showing the same caricatures in a class on freedom of speech.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the incident as an "Islamist terror attack" and promised a further crackdown on extremism.
In a series of tweets on Oct. 25, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of attacking Islam.
Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 25, 2020
through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam & our Prophet PBUH. 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.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 25, 2020
In an Oct. 25 letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Khan also asked for a ban on Islamophobic content on the social media platform.
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, chairman of the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, plans to hold an interfaith press conference on Oct. 26 at the bishop’s house in Lahore.
“We condemn the sacrilegious display in the strongest terms. A liberal society doesn’t mean increasing difficulties for the public and hurting their sentiments, especially their religious beliefs,” he told UCA News.
Samson Salamat, chairman of the interreligious Rawadari Tehreek (Movement for Tolerance), also condemned French authorities.
“I believe this incitement has hurt Muslim siblings all over the world as well as people who believe in the philosophy of respecting religions. Our hearts are hurting. Charlie Hebdo should avoid such incitements. We believe such attempts increases gaps between followers of diverse faiths. Respect and unity is the need of the hour,” he said.
Last month Pakistan's foreign office condemned Charlie Hebdo for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2015, thousands of people marched nationwide after the weekly magazine first ran the images, deemed by many in the conservative Muslim country to be blasphemous.
In January 2015, two gunmen belonging to al-Qaeda forced their way into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people and injured 11 others.
Also that year, a Christian boys’ school in Peshawar city of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunhwa province was stormed by a mob in a protest against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
In 2018, Catholic priests joined clerics in holding joint press conferences against the Netherlands over a “blasphemous” cartoon competition.