Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders has cancelled a planned contest inviting people to submit a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad following death threats and large-scale protests in Pakistan.
By – AP
“To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead,” the far-right opposition politician said in a written statement on Thursday night.
Wilders, who for years has lived under round-the-clock protection because of death threats sparked by his fierce anti-Islam rhetoric, said he does not want others put in danger by the contest he planned for November.
News of the competition sparked angry protests in Pakistan and an alleged death threat against Wilders this week from a 26-year-old man, reportedly a Pakistani, who was arrested on Tuesday in The Hague.
Physical depictions of the prophet are forbidden in Islam and are deeply offensive to Muslims.
“It’s not just about me,” Wilders said in the statement. Opponents of the event “see not only me, but the entire Netherlands as a target”.
The contest was to have been held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. The Dutch government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest.
Prime minister Mark Rutte last week questioned Wilders’ motives. “His aim is not to have a debate about Islam,” he said. “His aim is to be provocative.”
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.
Before news of the contest’s cancellation, thousands of Islamists had set out to march toward Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, in protest.
Some 10,000 supporters of the far-right religious group Tehreek-e-Labbaik, which helped Imran Khan to become prime minister following last month’s national elections, set out on the march on Wednesday, calling on Khan to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.
Read more: From 2017/09/17