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Far-Right Politician Cancels Prophet Mohammed Cartoon Drawing Contest Because of Threats

The far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders has canceled plans to hold a cartoon drawing contest in which participants would depict caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, citing safety concerns for the participants.

In a public statement released Thursday, Wilders pledged that he would never abandon his crusade against Islam, but noted that the cartoon drawing contest would be too dangerous to carry out. His decision to cancel the event is another indicator that Islam is intolerant, the Dutch politician said.

Images of the Prophet Mohammad are considered blasphemous in Islam because they are viewed as idolatry, and cartoons of the prophet published in Europe have sparked backlash in recent years. The issue was first launched into Europe's public consciousness in 2005 when a Danish newspaper outraged Muslims by publishing a cartoon of the prophet. The illustrator of the cartoon received death threats at the time.

In 2015, the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hedbo was famously targeted for publishing cartoons of the prophet, and 12 people died in a terrorist attack on the publication's office. 

80423591-594x594 An effigy of Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders is set on fire by Pakistani students. Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Wilders is a controversial figure who has been the subject of several lawsuits over hate speech against Muslims. In 2016, he was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans in a controversial post-election speech from 2014. Nevertheless, he was not forced to pay a fine or serve a sentence, and his popularity peaked following the conviction. He also attempted to organize an "Islam Safari" in a neighborhood of Belgium's capital city known to have a large Muslim population. 

The politician has also been nicknamed “the Dutch Trump” because of his provocative speeches, flashy blond hair and anti-immigrant stance. He launched the far-right Freedom Party in 2006 for the sole purpose of limiting the number of Muslims in the Netherlands, and his party has risen to become the second most popular party in the country following the migration crisis that saw millions of refugees from the Middle East and Northern Africa arrive in Europe starting in 2015.

The 2017 Dutch elections were viewed as a test for Wilders and his brand of right-wing populism in Europe. But his party was defeated by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose center-right party won 33 seats in the country’s 150-seat parliament compared to 20 seats obtained by the Freedom Party.

Muslims across Pakistan, including members of the newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s far-right religious political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik, burned pictures and effigies of Wilders in response to news of the cartoon drawing competition. Religious groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have called on devout Muslims to attack Wilders and Dutch people more generally in response to the politician's vociferously anti-Muslim statements. Now, the politician is forced to use 24-hour bodyguards due to threats.

Politicians in the Netherlands, including the country’s prime minister, have slammed Wilders for being intentionally provocative. Nevertheless, the firebrand politician has the right to hold the cartoon drawing contest due to the country’s freedom of expression laws.

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