The Pakistan government has claimed a triumph after Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders dropped his radical plan to have a competition for people to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The anti-Islam extremist MP cited “death threats” as the reason for his backdown, but in the immediate aftermath of the cancellation Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi put out a note on Twitter saying the “issue has been resolved due to effective diplomatic efforts of the Federal Government”.
In a press conference on Friday, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the cancellation was an achievement for Pakistan. “However, we still need to devise a global strategy against such attempts in the future,” he said.
Chaudhry, however, was quick to note that the Netherlands government did not support the competition, and reiterated that only a small group in the West was trying to provoke Muslims, so the majority of citizens should not be held responsible.
Pakistan claims victory
This standpoint is seen as a bid by the government to pacify a brewing protest by the radical Islamist Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which started a rally against the cartoon contest in Lahore last Wednesday. Thousands of protesters then traveled to the capital Islamabad late on Thursday night. Last year, the TLP had held the capital hostage due to changes in the original draft of the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017, which the group had deemed insulting to the Prophet.
The TLP called off the protest on Friday, maintaining that it was their rally that had ensured that the completion was cancelled.
“By the grace of Allah, we have achieved what we set out to do. Now we want the government to ensure that no one around the world should ever dare to even think about insulting our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,” TLP spokesman Ijaz Ashrafi told Asia Times.
“In his victory address, [Prime Minister] Imran Khan said that he wanted to create a Medina state in Pakistan. Well, he should know that in the Medina state the punishment for blasphemy is death, which is also sanctioned by the constitution of Pakistan. He should now inform the world that this would be the fate of anyone who insults our prophet,” he added.
Pakistan’s much-scrutinized blasphemy laws sanction death for any mockery of Islam. While no one has been judicially executed for blasphemy in the country yet, the laws have encouraged mob violence, with non-Muslims especially victimized by radical Islamists seeking vigilante justice.
While the new Pakistani government reiterated its opposition to the cartoon competition, its failure to distance itself from protests like the TLP’s, amid fears of a domestic backlash, is being seen by many as an endorsement of radical Islamist views. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been criticized for pandering to the religious right, and his party the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) vowed to safeguard the blasphemy law in the lead-up to the national election in July.
With a Pakistani man arrested in the Netherlands for plotting to kill Wilders, and Saturday’s knife attack on two people at Amsterdam station linked to the cartoon competition, critics have said that Islamabad should condemn violence as well as anti-Islam provocation.
This was urged by reformist Muslim voices, especially after widespread calls in Pakistan for organizers of the cartoon competition to be killed. Banned Pakistani cricketer Khalid Latif had even offered a PKR 3-million [US$24,000] bounty on Wilder’s head, while pop singer Rabi Pirzada allegedly called for him to be “hanged immediately”.
Tehmina Kazi, a former project officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a consultant for Faith and Free Speech in School, believes the reaction in Pakistan has shown the urgent need for the country to repeal its blasphemy laws and for public figures to remind people that beliefs do not deserve legal protection on their own.
“[People’s beliefs] are only protected insofar as they apply to living individuals. Further, religion as an idea – like all other ideas and belief systems – needs to be subjected to robust critique, and even ridicule. People [should] draw as many cartoons of historical religious figures as they wish, to break the taboo of doing so,” she argued.
However, others question the merit of such ideas.
“While protesters should certainly refrain from handing out death threats to anyone they think is a blasphemer, critics of Islam should also try and refrain from indulging in something that, they must be fully aware, is extremely hurtful to a huge mass of the world’s population,” Natasha Shahid, author of The Hashshashin: Precursors to Modern Muslim Terrorist Outfits, said.
“They don’t essentially need to do something just because they are legally entitled to do it. It renders the intentions of the competition holders very suspicious – is the competition being held as a service to art, or to incite hatred?” she asked.
Meanwhile, Pakistan government insiders maintain that the inertia against any reform of the blasphemy law is such that any leader who criticized radical Islamist views would be endangering their life.
“You saw what happened to [former Punjab governor] Salmaan Taseer, he was killed by his own bodyguard for criticizing the [blasphemy] law,” a senior government official said. “The TLP managed to sit untouched in the capital for weeks [last year] because they were accusing everyone of blasphemy left, right and centre.”
Veteran diplomats suggest that for Pakistan to strike the right balance, it needs to take other Muslim states on board through the platform of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“The cancellation of the blasphemous cartoon competition is indeed a triumph for Pakistani foreign policy, but the government should now focus on a more long-lasting solution to an issue that keeps popping up regularly, which they need to push at the OIC,” former foreign minister of Pakistan Khurshid Kasuri said to Asia Times.
“Individually, they would struggle to get things moving at the UN, because the European leaders there say that their citizens have freedom of speech – although they have criminalized Holocaust denial,” he added.
Why are you mocking someone else’s religion. You don’t see Muslims mocking your Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and other religions. Why are you encouraging blasphemy KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID.
Ahson Aftab you should attack the Americans and claim what is rightfully yours. Imran should be in the white house thumping trump on the nose for his bellicosity…
Also please kill all the illegal Indians swarming into Karachi so it remains a pristine haven for the believers.Also send us the name and numbers so we can honour the brave who could reach where no Indian has gone before.
Sami Ahmed how about the chinks hammering the uighyurs? Unki taraf Allah ki neymat kab hogi?
Would you like me to send you the list of abuses the Pakistanis enjoy calling out to the Indians? Hosh ki baat karo mian…itne bhi seedhe nahi ho…
Wilders has won.
His aim was obviously to convince more of his countrymen and other Europeans that Islam is a dangerous ideology.
That’s precisely what all the Muslims threatening or planning murder of organizers of this harmless drawing competition have accomplished.
To complete the demonstration, Wilders only had to cancel the event «because safety comes first». Message: see, we’re no longer safe nor free in our own countries, because of this Muslim ideology.
Full success for him. Muslim extremists have naively let themselves be manipulated like little children.
A smart Muslim would have laughed at all participants in that competition, saying: «You want to draw cartoons of the founder of my religion? Do what you want with your time. As for me, I have more sensible and agreeable uses of mine»
Rohit Pandeya Please don’t generalize that all Pakistanis are the same. We may live in one country but it certainly doesn’t mean that we all agree with each other or think alike. Thanks.
Dear Muhammad, in full respect to you, allow me to say, you missed the point. Alexis is perfectly correct. Rgds from the Czech Republic, vlad.
Vladimír Kolařík Thanks for clearing it up for me. I read it again I think I misunderstood his comment. I deleted my comment.
Rohit Pandeya for the nth time, this is or was never about religion! Let’s at least get that straight.
Muhammad Saleem I am happy to note that there do exist some sensible people like you in Pakistan.happy to make your acquaintance .
Rohit Pandeya Thank you and nice to meet you too.
Ahson Aftab sadly from your side it’s always about religion.You need to scroll down a few of this fayyaz character and his ilk’s posts to notice a deep seated animosity and religious bigotry evident in the way they write and think. They have a jaundiced view of Indian society with a jihadi thought process. I am a third generation army guy and it family has participated in all wars.if you look at recent floods in Kerala all communities and religious groups are joined together in providing relief to one and all.people are being provided shelter in Mandir / mosques / churches and gurudwaras with no concern about one’s faith .this is India.isolated events in a country of 1.3 billion donor define the country.but that is difficult to ascertain.maybe if you live in a western country you will be in a better position to appreciate this. All we remember is Lahore yatra by Vajpayee followed by kargill backstabbing. Such incidents create the trust deficit.Once bitten, twice shy.I believe in being nice to everyone but that doesn’t mean i would take shit from anyone.rest you know better.a civil discourse is always welcome of you can walk the talk. A patronising attitude ( syed abbas) or a jingoistic discourse ( fayyaz and company) will yield nothing except vitiating the course of narrative.a lie never becomes a truth even if repeated a thousand times.we need to spend this energy trying to better our nations.
Ahson Aftab read the posts from your fellow countrymen to see what it’s all about. I rest my case.
Sami Ahmed the Americans were your masters till you switched loyalties to a new patron.You were always a client state surviving on baksheesh.India is a sovereign nation and we talk on our own terms. The chinks know what is good for them so they keep to their side.sadly you refuse to learn even after losing half your country, being reduced to a basket case and put in grey list by international community . Well anyway you feel man enough, bring it on and bring your new masters too.we will take you head on.a lie never becomes a truth of you repeat it a hundred times. And yes I live in a 4 bedroom house with a big garden and servant quarters. A good employee is always welcome espec if you can cook well.
Ahson Aftab illegal Indians in Pakistan is like men from Mars in India…
Muhammad Fayyaz Okay bhai. Thank you for letting me know.
All religions should be mocked. Nothing but ridiculous, bronze-aged nonsense!
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