Spat comes after Pakistani President Arif Alvi called on Paris to drop the controversial bill, saying the law would discriminate against Muslims.
The French Foreign Ministry has summoned the Pakistani envoy to protest against President Arif Alvi’s claims that a French bill cracking down on what he calls Islamist extremism stigmatizes Muslims.
Addressing a conference on religion on Saturday, Alvi said: When you see laws are changed in favor of a majority to isolate a minority, it is a dangerous precedent.
Referring specifically to legislation drafted after the beheading of a French professor over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Alvi said: When you insult the Prophet, you insult all Muslims.
I urge France’s political leaders not to entrench these attitudes in law. You have to bring people together so as not to mark a religion in a certain way and create disagreement among the people or create prejudice.
Pakistan was one of many Muslim countries that saw angry anti-French protests in October against President Emmanuel Macrons to defend the right to show cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Pakistan, the country with the second largest number of Muslims in the world after Indonesia, does not have an ambassador in France.
The French foreign ministry said Monday evening that it had called Pakistanis in charge of cases to express our surprise and our disapproval (on Alvis’ remarks), given that the bill does not contain any discriminatory element.
It is guided by the basic principles of freedom of religion and conscience, does not distinguish between different religions and therefore applies to all religions equally, the ministry said.
Pakistan must understand this and adopt a constructive attitude towards our bilateral relations, he added.
The bill passed by the lower house of the French parliament last week is dubbed the anti-separatism bill in reference to Macrons’ claim that Islamists shut themselves off on French society by refusing to embrace secularism, gender equality and other French values.
The legislation greatly expands the powers of states to shut down religious organizations and places of worship if they are discovered to disseminate theories or ideas that cause hatred or violence against a person or people.
It also creates a new crime of separatism described as threatening an official with full or partial exemption or a different application of the rules punishable by five years in prison.
The Pakistani government has been particularly outspoken in its condemnation of Macrons’ crackdown, which followed a wave of attacks in recent years on French soil.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday accused Macron of attacking Islam and choosing to encourage Islamophobia for defending the right to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
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