Published: Sun, September 02, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Geert Wilders cancels Muhammad cartoon contest after Pakistan protests

Geert Wilders cancels Muhammad cartoon contest after Pakistan protests

Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders on Thursday announced cancelling his plans to hold the blasphemous caricatures contest, against which Tehrrek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was leading a rally to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

The controversy over Wilders' now-cancelled cartoon contest echoed a controversy over Muhammad cartoons in 2005, when the publication of pictures of the prophet in a Danish newspaper led to protests and violence in many Muslim countries.

The protest was organized by Islamist groups that made surprising gains in Pakistan's July elections.

Earlier this week, a man - believed to be of Pakistani origin - was detained in The Hague after posting a video on YouTube in which he voiced plans to attack Wilders in the parliament.

Wilders also said his fight against Islam would continue and no threat could stop him. Prosecutors say he was not armed.

Wilders on Thursday said he has chose to cancel the controversial blasphemous caricatures contest after being at the receiving end of death threats. Physical depictions of God or the Prophet are banned in Islam and considered deeply offensive.

The Party for Freedom (PVV) leader said the controversial competition was called off because the "safety and security" of the Dutch people was his priority.

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Following Wilders' announcement, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a firebrand Pakistani cleric, called off the march on Friday which began on Wednesday from the eastern city of Lahore.

Illustrative: Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders (L) and right-wing Belgium Flemish nationalist politician Filip Dewinter hold a press conference in Brussels on November 3, 2017.

Following a protest by Pakistan's Foreign Office and other Muslim countries, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte termed Wilders' move as "not respectful", distancing his government from the plan.

The Netherlands on Wednesday updated its travel advice to Pakistan urging its citizens "to avoid demonstrations in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi".

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he planned to take up the issue with the United Nations and several world leaders. He said the contest was a "deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam".

"One thing is for sure: The government is not in a position to expel the Dutch ambassador to Pakistan as the Dutch government has already distanced itself from the planned cartoon contest", Professor Tahir Malik, an academic and political analyst, said.

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