-Justice Markandey Katju
In the Pakistani Senate Khwaja Asif of the Opposition, and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan Foreign Minister, while commenting on French President Macron’s recent speech regarding the horrific beheading of a schoolteacher, vied and jostled with each other trying to show who was the greater defender of the ‘shaan’ (honor) of Prophet Mohammed, and the greater critic of ‘Islamophobia’.
These were senior, seasoned Pakistani politicians. Was it not expected of them to advise the public to maintain calm, and douse the flame instead of pouring fuel on it? Not one word did they utter condemning the savage beheading of the French schoolteacher Samuel Paty by a religious bigot.
The schoolteacher had only shown the cartoons of the Prophet which had been published in 2015 by Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, for which 12 on its staff were killed by a Muslim fanatic. One can understand the anguish of French President Macron at this horrible crime. Even if in his distress he had gone overboard and said some things about Islam which could have better been avoided, does that justify all the hue and cry being raised in much of the Muslim world?
Does this justify beheading the person who said this?
Lord Rama, whom most Hindus venerate, had been often ridiculed by the leader of the DMK party in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Karunanidhi, and Rama has been criticized for his treatment of his wife Sita after returning to Ayodhya, and for killing Shambhook (though it is said by many these are not in the original Ramayan but subsequent interpolations). There was no such brouhaha at these as is being sought to be created over President Macron’s speech.
Even if many Muslims thought Macron’s speech offensive, it was best to ignore it. Instead of having such a short fuse and being so touchy, Muslims should learn how to disregard such comments. Pakistani leaders should tell this to the public, but if they do so it may amount to committing suicide. The murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his own guard is a glaring precedent. This is the dilemma for rational people in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent letter to the OIC does not even mention the brutal beheading of Samuel Paty or the killing of 12 members of Charlie Hebdo staff. The letter is just a gimmick. Imran Khan, like Turkish President Erdogan, is displaying his sudden love for Islam to divert public attention from the deep economic crisis in Pakistan (like in Turkey), with mounting unemployment, skyrocketing prices, etc, which he has no idea how to resolve. So he must resort to gimmicks, like Erdogan’s conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. No wonder birds of a feather are flocking together.
[Justice Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India and former Chairman of Press Council of India. He heads the Indian Reunification Association (IRA), an organisation that advocates for the peaceful reunification of Pakistan and Bangladesh with India. The views expressed are personal.]