ISLAMABAD - Reacting to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement about disrespectful sketches depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday expressed his regrets saying the French leader had chosen to “deliberately provoke” Muslims, including his own citizens.

In a series tweets, he said this is a time when President Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalization. Imran Khan said that hallmark of a leader is that he unites human beings as Nelson Mandela did rather than dividing them.

The prime minister also said it is unfortunate that President Macron has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists. He said public statements based on ignorance will create more hate, Islamophobia and space for extremists.

Meanwhile, supporting the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Dr Arif Alvi said that respectful care must be taken regarding our feelings about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In a tweet, he termed Imran Khan’s statement over the matter as an excellent verbalisation of sentiments of Muslims the world over. “We are united in these thoughts. He said the world today desperately needs that people should be pulled together and not torn apart”, the president added.

A day earlier, Turkish President Erdogan had also called out Macron by asking: “What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level.” The French ambassador to Turkey was also recalled after President Erdogan criticised Macron for failing to curb rising Islamophobia in France.

Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, has called Macron’s words “irresponsible”, and said they would “increase the spread of a culture of hatred”.

Jordan’s foreign ministry said it condemns the “continued publication of caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) under the pretext of freedom of expression” and any “discriminatory and misleading attempts that seek to link Islam with terrorism”.

On Wednesday last President Macron had criticised Islamists and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

He had also contended that Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded last month for showing sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was “killed because Islamists want our future”