Planned Prophet Muhammad cartoon competition cancelled after protests, death threats
TUNIS - A controversial Dutch parliamentarian cancelled a planned Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest after it sparked outrage and protests by some Muslims, particularly in Pakistan.
The contest, planned by Dutch politician Geert Wilders for November would have seen participants submit depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, which is considered by many to be a grave offense in Islam.
Angered by the Dutch lawmaker’s plans, some 10,000 Islamists in Pakistan began marching towards the country’s capital, calling on newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan to sever ties with the Netherlands.
“We are on roads to show to the world that we can die to protect the honor of our Prophet,” Khadim Hussain Rizvi, head of the Tehreek-i-Labaik party that led the protest, told demonstrators.
There were also calls for violence and death threats in response to the planned contest.
Khalid Latif, a prominent former Pakistani cricket player, offered a $28,000 reward for whoever would “kill the Dutchmen” responsible for the contest.
In the Netherlands, a man was detained after threatening to attack Wilders or the Dutch parliament.
Eventually, the outcry led Wilders to call off the planned contest “to avoid the risk of making people victims of Islamist violence.”
“I don’t want Muslims to use the cartoon competition as an excuse for Islamist violence,” he said in a statement.
The decision to cancel the cartoon contest was hailed as a diplomatic victory for the Pakistani foreign ministry, which had expressed its concern to the Netherlands and also held talks with protest leaders to negotiate an end to the march.
Still, the drama put Wilders, the leader of the right-wing, anti-immigrant Party for Freedom, who is a frequent critic of Islam, back in the spotlight.
In 2010, the lawmaker was accused of inciting discrimination and hatred as well as criminally insulting ethnic and religious groups. He was later acquitted of those charges.
But in 2016 he was found guilty of incitement and encouraging discrimination towards Moroccans, though he faced no penalty.
Wilders’ recent calls for depictions of the Prophet Muhammad were not the first time such publications have led to outrage or violence.
In 2005, Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten published editorial cartoons that depicted the prophet, sparking protests around the world, including some violent demonstrations.
In January 2015, two brothers claiming to belong to al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French weekly magazine known for publishing provocative cartoons, including of the Prophet Muhammad. Twelve were killed and thirteen injured in the attack.