Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said late Thursday he was cancelling plans to stage a blasphemous caricatures contest, a scheme that had angered many Muslims particularly in Pakistan.
The Dutch politician´s announcement came after he said he had received several death threats. A man was arrested by police two days earlier on suspicion of wanting to assassinate Wilders.
On Thursday evening the far-right politician back-peddled on his plans, amid widespread criticism at home with politicians, media and ordinary citizens slamming the idea as needlessly antagonising Muslims.
Wilders in June announced plans to stage the blasphemous competition in parliament later this year. He claimed he had received 200 entries.
But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte distanced his government from the cartoon competition, saying it was not a government initiative.
Rutte last week said he supported free speech in the Netherlands but believed the competition was “not respectful” and aimed only to provoke.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the country’s ambassador to the Netherlands also confirmed cancellation of the controversial contest.
Terming the cancellation a “great moral victory for the entire Muslim Ummah”, Qureshi said the new government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf raised the issue at all forums immediately after coming into power.
He said the Parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the plans to hold the blasphemous caricature contest. He added that the minority members were at the forefront in condemning this heinous act.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, along with other Pakistani politicians, had also voiced concerns over the controversial contest.
PM Imran on Thursday said he would move the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in an effort to raise the issue of blasphemous caricatures in the United Nations.
Blasphemous caricatures ‘an issue of every Muslim’: PM Khan
In a video statement published on social media, the prime minister said the West does not understand “that our perspective towards religion is quite different from theirs”.
“The matter of blasphemous caricatures is an issue of every Muslim,” he said.
The planned contest had sparked protest demonstrations in Pakistan. Following the cancellation of the competition, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) called off its protest rally which had set out for Islamabad from Lahore earlier this week.