Drawing ire from Muslims and Christians alike, in a speech on 20 November Imran Khan has claimed that there is no historical record of Jesus Christ.
This could have been a dramatic slip of the tongue by the Oxford University educated leader of the centrist PTI party, but has been viewed as a direct attack on the Christian faith by Pakistani Christians, who number as many as three million in the country.
Khan’s bizarre claim was in stark contrast to the statement he made in a speech following the vote that made him prime minister, in which he declared, “I am saying to you today that, for the first time, Pakistan's policies won't be for the few rich people, it will be for the poor, for our women, for our minorities, whose rights are not respected.”
Around the globe, there was a strong reaction from Christians who have been shocked at Khan’s remarks. He is also facing significant criticism from many Muslims, as Jesus is referred to in the Quran on 187 occasions and considered by Muslims to be a prophet.
Aside from the well-documented Gospel writings, there are extra-Biblical accounts of Jesus in historical literature. One of the best-known is Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37-101 AD), who described Jesus as the “Christ” a “doer of wonderful works” who was condemned to the cross and “appeared alive on the third day”. The Roman historian Tacitus (55-117 AD) makes mention of Jesus as “Christus [sic], … who suffered the extreme penalty at the hand of Pontius Pilate”.
Last week, PM Khan signalled support for Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” law when he announced a campaign against religious defamation, in an apparent attempt to place Pakistan at the forefront of efforts to counter criticism of Islam worldwide. He asserted that nobody should be allowed to hurt the religious sentiments of billions of Muslims “under the garb of so-called free speech”.