Pakistan PM calls for Muslim countries to force Western governments to criminalise insulting the 'prophet' Mohammed with threats of trade boycott

Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan has called on Muslim-majority countries to force Western governments to criminalise insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

In a televised address on Monday, Khan said 'We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honour of the prophet,' 

'When 50 Muslim countries will unite and say this, and say that if something like this happens in any country, then we will launch a trade boycott on them and not buy their goods, that will have an effect.'  

The Muslim PM of Pakistan said insulting Islam's Prophet should be treated in the same way as questioning the Holocaust, which is a criminal offence in some European countries.

The address came as the government on Monday opened negotiations with a radical religious group over anti-blasphemy protests against France. 

Violence erupted after the government detained the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) leader Saad Hussain Rizvi ahead of a planned countrywide anti-France campaign to pressure the Islamabad government to expel the French ambassador in response to the publication of cartoons in France last year depicting the 'prophet' Mohammed.

The TLP has presented four main demands in the talks with the government, officials from both sides said.

They included expulsion of the French ambassador, release of the TLP leader and around 1,400 arrested workers, lifting the ban on the group and the dismissal of the interior minister.

Khan said expelling the French ambassador would only cause damage to Pakistan, and diplomatic engagement between the Muslim world and the West was the only way to resolve disputes.

'When we send the French ambassador back and break relations with them it means we break relations with the European Union,' he said in Monday's televised address.

'Half our textile exports go to the EU, so half our textile exports would be gone.'

Relations between Paris and Islamabad have worsened since the end of 2020 after President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of speech while paying tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded by an 18 year old Chechen Muslim for showing cartoons of the 'prophet' during a lesson.

Protests erupted in several Muslim-majority countries over France's response to the killing of Samuel Paty. The 'prophet' cartoons were re-printed elsewhere as well.

At the time, Khan's government signed a deal promising to present a resolution in parliament by April 20 to seek approval for the expulsion of the French envoy and to endorse a boycott of French products.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where forms of the crime can carry a mandatory death sentence.

At least 78 people have been murdered in relation to blasphemy accusations since 1990.

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