The Hague/Islamabad - Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has cancelled a competition for cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that sparked protests in Pakistan.
The far-right politician, who is known for his incendiary speeches and protests against immigration and Islam, said on Thursday he did not want others endangered by the contest he planned for November.
“To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead,” he said in a written statement, claiming to have received death threats.
The scheduled contest sparked angry protests in Pakistan and a death threat this week from a 26-year-old man, reportedly a Pakistani, who was arrested on Tuesday in The Hague. Earlier on Thursday, a Dutch judge extended by two weeks the detention of the man who allegedly threatened to attack Wilders. Prosecutors said in a statement that an investigating judge ordered the suspect held while he is investigated on charges of making a threat, making preparations for a murder and incitement.
In his emailed statement, Wilders said “The threats resulting from the cartoon contest are running out of control.”
Wilders, who has for years lived under round-the-clock protection because of death threats sparked by his fierce anti-Islam rhetoric, said he does not want others endangered by the contest he planned for November.
The contest was to have been held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte last week questioned Wilders’ motive for organising the contest.
Speaking in Islamabad on Thursday night, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the Dutch government has announced to call off the competition of blasphemous caricatures planned by Geert Wilders.
Qureshi said Holland’s ambassador to Pakistan conveyed him through a message that the contest was cancelled. “We will have to make a strong strategy to do away with the issue of blasphemous caricatures once and for all. We will achieve this task through diplomacy,” he said.
The foreign minister said sentiments of Muslims in Europe were also hurt. “We informed the Dutch foreign minister about sentiments of the Pakistan government and the people.
“The envoy said the event had nothing to do with his government and it was a job of the individual person. He said the government did not support the blasphemous acts,” he said.
Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan would still raise the issue at international forum including at the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He underscored that the abominable act of the Dutch parliamentarian was provoking the sentiments of Muslims across the world. He said such acts spread hatred and intolerance.
Qureshi said Pakistan had written letters to six countries of the OIC to develop a unified stance of the Muslim world on the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands. He said a letter had also been sent to the OIC secretary general for convening an emergency meeting of the committee of the OIC representatives on the issue.
The foreign minister said the government had also raised the matter with the United Nations General Secretary, Human Rights Council of the UN, European Union, and other relevant forums. He said the issue will also be taken up at the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers to be held on the sidelines of upcoming UN General Assembly session in New York next month.
He said the Pakistani government and its people were on the same page against blasphemous caricatures.
The announcement regarding the cancellation of the contest comes shortly after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world.
Meanwhile, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan also called off its protest march on Islamabad late Thursday night following announcement by the Dutch lawmaker.
In the video message, Imran urged all Muslim countries to use the platform of United Nations to convey to the western world how Muslims feel when their religious sentiments are repeatedly hurt by disrespecting Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Imran criticised the Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders’ announcement to hold a competition of blasphemous caricatures.
The premier said that people living in the West don’t understand the feelings and religious sentiments of Muslims, “because we have never tried to explain to them how we value our religion”.
“They [the West] have their own way of looking at their religions, while we [Muslims] look at it in a very different way,” the premier explained.
The premier also announced that Foreign Minister Qureshi had already started to get in touch with the OIC members.
Imran said that they need to launch strong and effective protest from the platform of OIC at the United Nations and make the world realise that whenever someone indulges in the blasphemy of Holy Prophet (PBUH) it would hurt each and every Muslim across the world.
He said that the issue would not resolve by just calling the ambassador of Holland by some country to lodge a protest on the issue as there is a need to lodge a strong and forceful response and that would only be possible when the whole Muslim Ummah come up with unified protest on the matter from the platform of OIC.
Imran said that at the same time Muslim world needed to make West realise that whenever there is any such move against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) it hurts each and every Muslim across the globe and such things should be stopped forthwith.
Imran was confident that a united stand taken by the Muslim states from the platform of OIC would make West realise on its mistake toward the religious sentiments of Muslims.
Foreign Minister Qureshi had raised the issue of the blasphemous cartoon caricature competition with the Dutch foreign minister and also called upon the OIC to summon an urgent session for adopting a unanimous position in response to the planned Dutch blasphemous event.
Dutch lawmaker cancels blasphemous cartoon contest