Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP

United Nations: Islamophobia has grown at an alarming pace after the 9/11 attacks and is creating divisions, with wearing of hijab becoming a "weapon" against the community in some countries, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said here on Friday.

Khan, who is currently on a week-long visit to the US, delivered his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly and touched upon several issues, including climate change, money laundering and Islamophobia. Khan said billions of Muslims were living as minorities in the western countries and since 9/11 attacks Islamophobia had grown at an "alarming" pace.

"Islamophobia is creating divisions, hijab is becoming a weapon; a woman can take off clothes but she can't put on more clothes. It started after 9/11 and it started because certain western leaders equated Islam with terrorism," he said. Khan questioned the use of the term 'radical Islamic terrorism', saying there is only one Islam.

"There is no such thing as radical Islam," he said, pointing out that all religions have individuals carrying out radical acts. "The basis of all religions is compassion and justice which differentiates us from the animal kingdom," he said. The prime minister told the UN that there should be an understanding for other faiths, but they are seen as creating division among global population.

Khan said the radical Islamic terrorism used by leaders has caused Islamophobia and pain for Muslims. "What message does this (the term) send? How is a person in New York going to distinguish between moderate Muslims and radical Muslims?" he asked. "In European countries it is marginalising Muslims, and this leads to radicalisation. Some of the terrorists were from marginalised Muslim communities. We Muslim leaders have not addressed this issue. The Muslim leaders all became moderates and our government coined a phrase 'enlightened moderation'," he said.

Khan's remarks came a day after he announced that Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia have decided to jointly launch an English language Islamic television channel to correct misperceptions and confront the challenges posed by Islamophobia. "President Erdogan, PM Mahatir and myself had a meeting today in which we decided our 3 countries would jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record straight on our great religion - Islam," Khan said in a tweet.

"Misperceptions which bring people together against Muslims would be corrected; issue of blasphemy would be properly contextualized; series and films would be produced on Muslim history to educate/inform our own people and the world; Muslims would be given a dedicated media presence," he said. Speaking about the climate change, Khan said so many leaders talked about the issue, but there was a lack of seriousness.

"We don't realise the urgency of the situation. We have so many ideas but ideas without funding are mere hallucinations," he said. "Our country is one of the top 10 countries that are most affected by the climate change. Eighty per cent of our water comes from the glaciers. These glaciers are melting at a rapid pace. The glaciers are also in India in the Himalayas, Karakorum and the Hindu Kush.If nothing is done, I fear the people are going to be facing a huge catastrophe," he said.

Khan said his government planted one billion trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when it came to power and plans to plant 10 billion to counter global warming effects. "One country cannot do anything, it has to be a combined effort of the world, he said, urging the UN to push countries which contribute to green house gas emissions.

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