Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is calling on Facebook to treat Islamophobia the same as Holocaust denial. “It cannot be that hate speech about some is not allowed, but about others is.”
Khan rightly calls it that Facebook is going to do more to tackle Holocaust denial, but also wants that protection for fellow believers. He sees parallels with the persecution of the Jews in World War II or the violent pogroms from Eastern Europe.
“Today we see pogroms against Muslims in different parts of the world,” Khan writes on the social medium in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg. “We must ban Islamophobia before Muslims are prosecuted.”
France explicitly mentioned
Khan refers to the treatment of Muslims by India’s archenemy. But he also writes about Muslims in France, “where blasphemous cartoons directed against Islam and the Holy Prophet are allowed”. President Macron wants to crack down on extremist Muslims after the beheading of a teacher who showed Mohammed cartoons to illustrate freedom of speech.
“How is France going to distinguish between radical Muslims and average Muslim citizens?” Khan wonders. “Marginalization inevitably leads to extremism, and the world doesn’t need it.”
A spokesperson for Facebook tells Reuters news agency that all messages in which people are attacked by origin or religion are prohibited. “Hate speech will be removed as soon as it comes to our attention,” said the spokesman, admitting that there is “more work to be done.”
Collision with Macron
Khan spoke earlier in the day to French President Macron about his statements in response to the attack on the teacher. He denounced the harsh French approach to Muslim organizations and advised Macron to strive for reconciliation.
Macron did not respond directly to Khan’s words. He did say he wanted to stand up for peaceful debate and “never, never give up”.
Khan is generalizing here in very large steps.
Kees Ribbens, professor of Popular Historical Culture and War at Erasmus University, speaks of an unfortunate comparison. “Islamophobia and Holocaust denial are very different things.”
He understands why Khan quotes the Holocaust. “After all, that is the moral benchmark of Western society. By hooking on to that frame, he can draw attention to his point. But he does generalize in a few very large steps.”
“A key question is, for example, whether sharing Mohammed cartoons is by definition Islamophobic. Pakistan, Turkey and the rest of the Islamic world will see it that way, but the French position is correct that this is about freedom of expression.”
“It is good that Facebook is tackling any form of hate speech, but there is discussion about what fits or does not fit into that concept.”
There has also been fierce demonstration against Mohammed cartoons in Pakistan in the past. In August 2018, this even led to threats against Geert Wilders, who subsequently canceled his planned cartoon competition.
“Khan is not one of the Islamic parties leading these protests, but could use their support,” said correspondent Aletta André. “Khan also spoke at the UN in September about Muslim hatred in neighboring India.”
“His fight against Islamophobia is in line with Pakistan’s identity as an Islamic state, founded as a counterpart to secular India. In India this is called hypocritical because in its own country there is a lot of discrimination against minorities like Hindus and Christians.”