Qureshi raises issue of blasphemous contest with Dutch counterpart, asks OIC to convene session

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday said he has raised the issue of the blasphemous cartoon caricature competition with the Dutch foreign minister and also called upon the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to summon an urgent session for adopting a unanimous position in response to the planned Dutch blasphemous event.

Addressing a press conference in the federal capital, the foreign minister said he had talked to his Dutch counterpart and reminded him that the abominable act of the Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders to hold a competition of blasphemous caricatures was provoking, which had hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world. Such acts would spread hatred and intolerance.

Qureshi said the government was fully cognizant of the sentiments of the nation and the Muslim Ummah and had raised the issue at different levels, in the parliament, at the Foreign Office, before the UN human rights commission and the European Union.

"Everyone is in agreement on this issue. There is no such thing as 'the opposition' or 'treasury benches' when it comes to this issue as it is part of our faith," the minister said.

"It is promising that our minority senators from the Christian and Hindu communities also presented their views on Pakistan's stance and chose to share their opinion with us," the foreign minister said, stressing that "there is complete unanimity over this issue".

Qureshi said there are two developments which took place after the meeting, that he wanted to share with the media.

"As soon as the resolution was passed unanimously yesterday, acting on the wishes of the House and the Senate, the first thing I did was to write letters to the six foreign ministers of the OIC and put forth Pakistan's stance and make them aware of how perturbed we are over the issue," Qureshi said.

"I also wrote to the OIC's secretary general and requested him to call a meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Jeddah at the earliest so OIC's stance is made clear regarding the matter and so that there is unison between all the members," he added.

FM Qureshi said he also intends on raising the issue at a meeting he is due to attend "on the sidelines of New York" of the Council of Foreign Ministers.

The foreign minister said he also spoke with his Turkish counterpart prior to the news conference.

"Turkey's foreign minister congratulated me and we held talks on bilateral issues after which he said he had received the letter I had sent to him yesterday and reviewed it carefully. He said he is not only in complete agreement with our sentiments but also endorses them," Qureshi said while describing the conversation he had with his Turkish counterpart.

"Pakistan and Turkey stand united in our stance on the issue. Our emotions, opinions, sentiments are one," said FM Qureshi quoting the Turkish foreign minister.

Qureshi said that the Turkish FM has assured cooperation in raising the issue in New York before the Council of Foreign Ministers and expressed willingness to find a solution to this together.

The foreign minister said that while freedom of expression was a right and he as a democrat had complete respect for it, however, "exercising the right has its limits".

“In Europe, if you talk about Holocaust, the people feel offended. Numerous pieces of legislation have been done there over the issue. The Muslims across the globe expect the same respect from the European countries regarding their religious attachments,” he maintained.

Qureshi said the issue would be raised with the European Union as well, adding he was conveyed by the PTA that it blocked 32,000 websites and links posting blasphemous material.

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