Dutch lawmaker cancels Prophet’s cartoon contest over ‘safety concerns’

28th Sep 2018
Dutch lawmaker cancels Prophet’s cartoon contest over ‘safety concerns’

Geert Wilder has cancelled plans to hold a contest for cartoon caricaturing Prophet Mohammad
(Photo: Peter van der Sluijs /Wikimedia CC)

Aqila Mumthaz

Dutch anti-Islam Lawmaker, Geert Wilder said on August 30, he was cancelling plans to hold a contest for cartoon caricaturing Prophet Mohammad saying the danger of violence against innocent people was too great.

A written statement issued by the far-right opposition, Wilders said, “To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.”

Anti-Islam Wilders said he does not want others endangered by the contest he planned for November, which was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch Parliament building. He followed up the statement with a tweet saying: “Islam showed its true face once again with death threats, fatwas and violence. However, the safety and security of my fellow countrymen come first.”

An investigating judge ordered a 26-year-old Pakistani citizen in The Hague to be sent to prison for two weeks, for posting a threat on Facebook in Urdu, a day earlier. Although, prosecutors say he was not armed, He is being investigated on charges of making a terrorist threat, making preparations for a terrorist murder and incitement.

Wilders’ Freedom Party is the leading opposition party in Parliament after coming in second place in elections last March. He has called for the Qur’an to be banned, and says Islam is a “totalitarian faith”.

“Freedom of speech is threatened, especially for Islam critics,” Wilders said in a statement. “We should never accept that. Freedom of speech is our most important freedom.”

The Dutch Government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, questioned Wilders motive for organizing the contest. “His aim is not to have a debate about Islam. His aim is to be provocative,” Rutte said. However, Rutte added that people in the Netherlands have far-reaching freedom of speech rights and the Government did not intend to seek the contest’s cancellation.

The contest was cancelled shortly after the Taliban urged Afghan soldiers to attack Dutch troops serving in the Nato-led Resolute Support mission in retaliation.Members of the Afghan security forces “if they truly believe themselves to be Muslims or have any covenant towards Islam should turn their weapons on Dutch troops” or help Taliban fighters attack them, the Taliban’s main spokesman said in a statement.

The Dutch port and dredging sector cancelled a trade mission to Pakistan, set for early November, in the same week that the winners of Wilders’ competition were due to be announced.

The contest was also cancelled after huge protests in Pakistan on August 29, when thousands set off on a protest in Islamabad demanding Imran Khan’s Government sever diplomatic ties with the Netherlands over the “blasphemous” competition.

Khan said the issue could not be addressed by expelling an ambassador but through a joint stand against the Dutch Freedom Party Leader, Geert Wilders, mastermind of the contest, in the UN through the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. A Government delegation led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tried to persuade the protesters to end their march. He added that a minority in the West was involved in Islamophobic and anti-Islam acts.

“This is our fault that we have failed to make them understand how important this issue is. How much it hurts us. Noble Prophet Mohammad lives in our hearts,” Qureshi said. After successful talks and the cancellation of the “blasphemous cartoons”, Tehreek-e-Labbaik PartyTLP ended the march.

The protest that had started from the eastern city of Lahore with 300 buses and trucks and dozens of smaller vehicles remained on the border of the capital after Wilders cancelled the contest. “The blasphemous cartoon contest is cancelled and this is our moral victory,” Qureshi said at a press conference after talks with TLP.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said that Islamabad conveyed its deep concern to the Netherlands over the planned cartoon contest. He said the contest was a “deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam.” Adding, Pakistan would avoid any unnecessary extreme action against the Netherlands over the contest. In a video message, the newly elected prime minister said: “This is not the issue of a single Muslim or country. This is the issue of every Muslim in the world.”

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