Dutch MP Wilders calls off blasphemous caricatures contest amid death threats

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News Analysis |

The anti-Islam, Islamophobe Dutch parliamentarian Greet Wilders has cancelled a planned blasphemous caricatures contest following “death threats and concerns other people could be put at risk.” Wilders took to Twitter and published a written statement in which he said: “to avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.”

Fearing that his plans could endanger the life of his countrymen supporting his plans, he decided to call off the blasphemous contest. A government delegation held talks with TLP leaders and foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the media afterward. Pakistan’s ambassador to Netherlands has confirmed cancellation of the controversial contest, FM said.

Wilder must be aware of the attack on satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in January 2015, when two armed gunmen killed 12 people and injured 11 other for mocking Islam in its publications.

He assured the public that government was determined to make an effective and strong policy to put an end to this issue once for all. “We informed the Dutch foreign minister about sentiments of the Pakistan government and the people,” he remarked. Shortly after Qureshi’s presser, the TLP announced to call off the rally. The party’s leader Afzal Qadri announced to end the protest.

Read more: PM Khan resolves to take up blasphemous cartoon campaign to UNGA

Wilders anti-Islam Rhetoric

The anti-Islam, Dutch parliamentarian Greet Wilders triggered a massive uproar and anger among the Muslim community across the world after his decision to hold a blasphemous caricatures contest in Netherlands. On June 12, Party for Freedom (PVV) chairman Geert Wilders announced the controversial November contest.

He received the approval of Dutch Counter-terrorism Agency NCTV to hold the contest party’s secure offices in Dutch Parliament. Wilder believes that freedom of speech in his country was under threat and critics of Islam were being silenced. He was convicted in 2016 of inciting racial discrimination. The PVV—which has emerged as the second biggest party in the Dutch parliament after the March elections, had previously called to ban all Islamic symbols, mosques and the Quran from the country.

Wilders took to Twitter and published a written statement in which he said: “to avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.”

For years, Wilder has lived round-the-clock protection because of death threats due to his extreme rhetoric on the subject—which made him the most hated man among the Muslim community across the world. The controversial lawmaker had planned the contest in the premises of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building, under the tight security.

Read more: Pakistan’s National Assembly passes resolution condemning blasphemous content: Difficult Questions Arise?

Government’s Credible efforts to Engage the World Community

The Muslims around the world were outraged at his plans. On June 24, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had condemned the plan of the far-right politician under the slogan of freedom of speech. The Pakistani government was in contact with the OIC members and diplomatic efforts were on to stop the protests.

Merely an hour before Wilders decision, in a video message, Prime Minister Imran Khan had assured the nation that Pakistan was using all the backdoor channels to reach out to the world community and Muslim countries to resolve the crises—which saddened the Muslim world.

On August 27, Prime Minister Imran Khan, had earlier, bemoaned the absence of an international policy against the generation of blasphemous content and termed it a collective failure of the Muslim countries. The government had promised that Pakistan’s delegation in the leadership of foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would raise the matter before the United Nations (UN) in the next month’s United Nations General Assembly session.

The PVV—which has emerged as the second biggest party in the Dutch parliament after the March elections, had previously called to ban all Islamic symbols, mosques and the Quran from the country.

On August 20, Pakistan’s Foreign Office summoned the Charge D’Affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and lodged the protest over the developments. Pakistan had shown deep concern over this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam.

Read more: Pakistan’s National Assembly passes resolution condemning blasphemous content: Difficult Questions Arise?

Protests in Pakistan

Meanwhile, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists under the leadership of its chief Allama Khadim Rizvi embarked on a journey from Lahore to register protests against the exhibition of blasphemous caricatures. Hundreds of TLP activists marched to the twin-city with demands to either sever ties or force the Dutch government to pressurize Wilder to cancel the contest.

TLP activists travelled through GT road and faced many hurdles and disruptions on its way until the cancellation of the contest.  PTI’s Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat had held negotiations with the TLP’s leadership earlier but failed to convince them to stop the protest.

Read more: TLP storm to hit capital with demands to sever ties with…

Death Threats Forced Wilder to Cancel the Contest

Earlier, a 26-year old man, reportedly a Pakistani, who was arrested on Tuesday in The Hague, had allegedly threatened to kill Wilders. In a video posted on Facebook, he confirmed that he was five minutes away from targeting the blasphemer [Wilders].

Wilder must be aware of the attack on satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in January 2015, when two armed gunmen killed 12 people and injured 11 other for mocking Islam in its publications.

The planned contest had sparked angry protests in Pakistan from far-right religious outfits. The ordinary Pakistanis showed their extreme displeasure on social media. The diplomatic efforts of Pakistan’s government, massive protests across the country and the grave threats facing the organizers of the contest may have convinced the government to speak with Wilder to cancel the blasphemous contest.

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