Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused Facebook of failing to curtail the spread of Islamophobic content on the social media platform. In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, Khan requested that the company implement a ban on Islamophobic content, similar to its recent policy on holocaust denial. He referred in length to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in India as examples of growing Islamophobia across the world.
Khan’s letter comes days after the murder of Samuel Paty, a history teacher in France who was beheaded for showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class. France president Emmanuel Macron subsequently paid tribute to Paty, and said the country “will not give up cartoons”. Macron is also reported to have said Paty was killed because “Islamists want our future”. Khan, in a series of tweets, Khan criticised Macron for his stance, which he claimed is polarising the public and leading to increased hate, Islamophobia and “space for extremists”.
My letter to CEO Facebook Mark Zuckerberg to ban Islamophobia just as Facebook has banned questioning or criticising the holocaust. pic.twitter.com/mCMnz9kxcj
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 25, 2020
Growing hatred against Muslims on social media
Khan told Zuckerberg that Islamophobia is growing across the world, encouraging hate and violence especially through the use of social media platforms such as Facebook. He appreciated Facebook for banning all denials of the Holocaust, the Nazi pogrom of Jews in Europe. In the same vein, Khan compared the Holocaust to conditions of Muslims in India, and presented it as a prime example of Islamophobia. He also referred to the Tablighi Jamaat being blamed for the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
“Unfortunately, in some states, Muslims are being denied their citizenship rights and their democratic personal choices from dress to worship. In India, anti-Muslims laws and measures such as CAA and NRC as well as targeted killings of Muslims and blaming Muslims from Corona virus are reflective of the abominable phenomenon of Islamophobia” — Imran Khan, Prime Minister, Pakistan
Khan criticised France, where Islam “has been associated with terrorism” and the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed is allowed. This stance, he claimed, will lead to further polarisation of Muslims in France. “How will the French distinguish between radical extremist Muslims citizens and the mainstream Muslim citizenry of Islam? We have seen how marginalisation inevitably leads to extremism — something the world does not need.”
Ban Islamophobic content like you did for the Holocaust
Khan claimed the rampant abuse and vilification of Muslims on social media platforms calls for a ban on Islamophobic content on Facebook, using a policy similar to the company’s Holocaust one. “The message of hate must be banned in total — one cannot send a message that while hate messages against some are unacceptable, these are acceptable against others.”
The Pakistani prime minister took one more shot at India, where he claimed a program against Muslims is ongoing across the country, including “Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir”. He said the world shouldn’t “wait for a program against Muslims”.
Hate speech against Muslims in India
There have indeed been reports of hate speech against Muslims in India on Facebook. Earlier in August, a Wall Street Journal report had accused Facebook of refusing to take down such content by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, for fear that such an action would hurt the company’s business interests in India.
One of the people who escaped Facebook’s moderation for several months was T Raja Singh, a BJP MLA from Telangana who had called for the murder of Rohingya Muslim immigrants from Burma. Singh had reportedly called Muslims traitors and threatened to raze mosques. Facebook also did not take action against some BJP politicians who had accused Muslims of intentionally spreading COVID-19, plotting against the nation, and waging a “love jihad” campaign by seeking to marry Hindu women. Both Ajit Mohan, Facebook India’s head, and Ankhi Das, the company’s head of public policy affairs in India, have appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology where they were questioned on the controversy.
World over, Facebook has been used to incite hatred against religious, ethnic and racial minorities. For instance, the social media platform was used to spread hatred against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a team of United Nations investigators found in 2018. This widespread hatred eventually led to the mass exodus of Rohingyas. Facebook had been unable to take down hate speech against them because it did not have enough content moderators who knew Burmese.