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Geert Wilders, Dutch politician, cancels Muhammad cartoon contest, citing ‘Islamic violence’

August 31, 2018

Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician notorious for his criticism of Islam, has canceled a contest inviting participants to submit cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, he said Thursday.

“To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided to not let the cartoon contest go ahead,” Mr. Wilders, 54, said in a written statement.

Previously scheduled to take place in November at the offices of Mr. Wilders’ Party for Freedom within the Dutch parliament building, the proposed contest was widely panned on account of Islam forbidding physical depictions of the prophet, cartoons included, drawing ire from critics in the Netherlands and abroad.

Dutch police arrested a man on Tuesday this week accused of plotting to kill Mr. Wilders over the contest, and thousands of demonstrators participated in a massive protest held Wednesday in Pakistan, home to roughly 11 percent of the planet’s Muslims.

Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a Muslim cleric involved in the demonstration, said protesters would “stay on the streets until either the publication of blasphemous cartoons in the Netherlands is stopped or the government immediately ends diplomatic ties with the Dutch,” Pakistani media reported.

In canceling the contest, Mr. Wilders claimed he was protecting would-be participants from potential violence.

“Islam showed its true face once again with death threats, fatwas and violence,” he said on Twitter. “However, the safety and security of my fellow countrymen comes first,” Mr. Wilders tweeted.

French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamist terrorists in January 2015 after the magazine repeatedly published depictions of Muhammad. An event held less than four months later in Garland, Texas, the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest,” culminated in two men opening fire outside the venue. The Islamic State subsequently took credit for the attack, and authorities ultimately uncovered conversations between one of the gunman and Junaid Hussain, a suspected member of the terrorism organization also known as ISIS.

Hussain was killed roughly two months after the Garland shooting as the result of a U.S.-led airstrike on Syria, the Pentagon said previously.

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