Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ anti-Islam Party for Freedom, announced the contest in June, prompting intense backlash from the Muslim world. Wilders says he will choose the winning images in November and post them on the walls of his party’s room in the Dutch parliament.
Islam forbids all depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even if they are positive.
The issue has sparked violence in the past, such as the deadly attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015. The French paper previously published a cartoon mocking Muhammad.
Police killed two gunmen later that same year in Texas, at a “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest.
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Wilders has defended his contest as an act of free speech. He says he’s received hundreds of threats since launching the competition.
“The reactions/threats from Pakistan show that Islam and freedom do not go together,” he tweeted in Dutch on Aug. 24.
“The contest is not meant to provoke, but to show that we do not haggle with our freedom.”
Dutch police said they detained a 26-year-old man on Wednesday for allegedly plotting an attack on the Dutch parliament over Wilders’ cartoon competition.
Thousands of Muslims marched from Lahore to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, Wednesday and Thursday to protest Wilders’ competition. Pakistan’s extremist Islamic party, Tehreek-e-Labaik, organized the march and led the crowd in chanting: “We will die to protect the honour of the Prophet.”
Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, has also condemned the contest, saying it defames Islam. Khan says he plans to raise the issue at the United Nations next month.
“They don’t understand how much they hurt us when they do such acts,” Khan said on Monday in Pakistan’s parliament.
“Such acts must be prevented as they spread hate and intolerance in societies,” Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Quareshi, said in a statement earlier this week. Quareshi says he’s spoken with the Dutch foreign minister, the UN and the European Union about the “abominable and sacrilegious competition.”
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Wilders leads the official opposition in the Dutch parliament and is well-known for his provocative comments about Islam. He has lived under constant guard for years due to repeated death threats.
Wilders was convicted in 2016 of inciting discrimination at a 2014 campaign rally, where he told supporters he would ensure fewer Moroccans lived in the country. Wilders has appealed the conviction.
He also called Moroccans “scum” and vowed to make the Netherlands “ours again” at a rally in February 2017.
His Twitter feed is filled with anti-Muslim comments, stories and cartoons.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has distanced himself from the contest.
“This contest is not an initiative by the government,” he said last week.
“This contest is not something I would do.”
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press