Photo Credit: Peter van der Sluijs via Wikimedia
Geert Wilders

The parliamentary leader of the rightwing Dutch Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, on Thursday announced he was canceling a Prophet Muhammad cartoon competition to avoid Islamist violence, after receiving several death threats.

“I have decided to cancel the competition to avoid the risk of making people victims of Islamist violence,” Wilders said in a statement. “I don’t want Muslims to use the cartoon competition as an excuse for Islamist violence.”

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“It’s not just about me,” Wilders said, suggesting Islamist fanatics “see not only me, but the entire state of the Netherlands as a target.”

Wilders founded the Party for Freedom in 2006, and it is currently the third-largest party in the Dutch House of Representatives, with 20 out of 150 seats. It combines conservative, liberal, right and leftwing positions on various issues, believes that the Judeo-Christian and humanist traditions should be recognized as the dominant culture in the Netherlands, and that immigrants should adapt accordingly. The party wants a halt immigration, especially from Muslim countries.

On Tuesday, a Pakistani man was arrested in Holland after posting a Facebook video threatening to attack the Dutch parliament and kill Wilders. And on Wednesday, in response to Wilders’ cartoon competition, thousands of demonstrators in Pakistan condemned the Dutch politician.

The Dutch foreign ministry issued a warning to its citizens in Pakistan to exercise caution and stay away from street rallies.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the Muhammad cartoon competition provocative: “The aim is to provoke rather than to force a debate about Islam,” Rutte said, but, citing Holland’s right to freedom of speech, added, “Wilders is a politician who provokes and he is free to do that.”

Wilders lived in Israel for two years in his youth and has visited the Jewish State 40 times in the last 25 years. Back in 2009, he wrote: “I have visited many interesting countries in the Middle East – from Syria to Egypt, from Tunisia to Turkey, from Cyprus to Iran – but nowhere did I have the special feeling of solidarity that I always get when I land at Ben Gurion International Airport.”

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