Geert Wilders cancels Muhammad cartoon contest after Pakistan protests
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician, has cancelled a cartoon drawing contest of the Prophet Muhammad after alleged death threats and large-scale protests in Pakistan.
The decision to cancel the contest, which was to be held in the Dutch parliament in November, was greeted with joy in Pakistan. An Islamic party had organised demonstrations in Lahore and Islamabad. On Wednesday about 10,000 supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party called for the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador and for diplomatic ties with the Netherlands to be severed.
Drawing the Prophet Muhammad is seen as blasphemous in parts of the Islamic world and is deeply offensive to some Muslims.
Mr Wilders, the firebrand leader of the Party for Freedom, has lived under round the clock protection for years because of his anti-Islam rhetoric. A 26-year-old man, reportedly from Pakistan, was arrested this week in The Hague after making an alleged death threat against Mr Wilders.
“To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided to not let the cartoon contest go ahead,” he said.
The Dutch government had distanced itself from the competition but did not try to cancel the contest to protect Dutch freedom of speech rights.
Pakistan tried to take credit for the reverse, claiming it had exerted pressure on the Dutch government.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the cancellation of the contest was a “great moral victory for the Muslim Ummah” and a “major crisis” had been averted.
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Imran Khan, the new prime minister, had earlier vowed to raise the issue at the United Nations and with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Mr Wilders announced the contest in June and claimed he had already received 200 entries. The winner was supposed to be presented with a cash prize.
The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo repeatedly printed cartoons of Muhammad before its office was attacked by Islamic terrorists in 2015. Protests against 12 cartoons of Muhammad printed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 led to a reported 200 deaths. Danish diplomatic missions were also attacked.