An appeal to Muslims in Pakistan and India
By Justice Markandey Katju
An agitation is going on in Pakistan spearheaded by the Tehreeke Labaik Party ( TLP ) demanding the expulsion of the French Ambassador and breaking off trade ties with France since cartoons have been displayed in France of Prophet Mohammad. French President Macron has said this is legally valid as it is part of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the French Constitution.
In my opinion, since the cartoons were shown in France, where this is legally valid, it is best for Muslims to ignore it.
The real issues in Pakistan ( and India ) are massive poverty, record and rising unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment ( every second child in India and Pakistan is malnourished, according to Global Hunger Index ), skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs and fuel, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, etc. Our political leaders have no idea how to resolve these real issues. So they have to resort to gimmicks and ‘dramabazi’ to divert public attention from the real problems of the people. The debate presently going on in the Pakistan National Assembly, in which both ruling PTI and Opposition members are falling head over the heel ( one even threatening to beat the Speaker with a shoe ) and vying with each other to prove who is the greater ‘ashiq-e-rasool’ is clear proof of this.
In my opinion this hue and cry in Pakistan over display of Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons in France is only dramabazi by certain political and religious elements for promoting their own agenda. Unfortunately the gullible people have been befooled, like the children of Hamelin by the Pied Piper.
The TLP is a far right extremist group of bigoted thugs which wants strict enforcement of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan ( e.g. section 295C Pakistan Penal Code ) which are often used to target Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians, etc ( see my article ‘Barbaric persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan’ online ). In 2017 the TLP launched an agitation which brought the whole of Pakistan to a standstill over proposed change in an election law, which it said was against the concept of ‘khatme nabuwat’ ( finality of Prophethood ).
My appeal to Muslims of the Indian subcontinent is to see through this game, and not to be misled by it. For too long have Muslims been taken for a ride by unscrupulous elements. Many things are best ignored, and so are the Prophet’s cartoons published in foreign countries.
(Justice Markandey Katju is former Chairman, Press Council of India and former Judge, Supreme Court of India.)