Geert Wilders’ Controversial Cartoon Contest Sparks Global Outrage and Muslim Leaders Protests

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New York, July 2018 – In a move that has sparked international controversy, Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders announced a contest to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The contest, widely condemned as provocative and offensive, has led to significant backlash and protests by Muslim leaders and communities around the world, including in New York.

In response to Wilders’ contest, many Muslim leaders and organizations organized protests to express their outrage and demand the cancellation of the event. Prominent demonstrations took place in front of the United Nations and the Netherlands Consulate in New York. Among the key figures leading these protests were Dr Amaar Saeed, Imam Khalid Latif, and Sheikh Musa Drammeh, all well-known Muslim leaders and advocates for interfaith dialogue.

Dr. Ammaar Saeed American Muslim Scholar and renowned figure held protest with other Muslims in New York at consulate general of Netherlands at New York City holding banners in the response to Geert Wilders controversial announcement of competition of cartoon and at United Nations New York.

“These cartoons are not an exercise in free speech but rather an act of blasphemy and hate speech,” Dr Saeed stated during the demonstration. “It is crucial to distinguish between freedom of expression and actions that deliberately incite and offend millions of people worldwide.”_ (Dr Ammaar Saeed)

“People living in the West don’t understand the feelings and religious sentiments of Muslims because we have never tried to explain to them how we value our religion.”_ (Dr Ammaar Saeed)

Joining Dr. Saeed, other influential leaders also voiced their concerns. A spokesperson for the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) highlighted the broader implications of the contest. “To denigrate a religion and a historical figure revered by 1.5 billion Muslims is not democratic freedom; it is a direct assault on our beliefs and values,” the spokesperson said.

Other Muslim leaders echoed this sentiment. Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director of the Islamic Center at New York University, commented, “This contest is a clear example of hate speech disguised as freedom of expression. We must educate others about the profound respect we have for our Prophet PBUH Muhammad and our faith.”

Sheikh Musa Drammeh, a community leader in the Bronx, added, “Such actions only serve to create division and hostility. We need to foster a spirit of respect and understanding among all communities.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the increasing racism and Islamophobia in Western countries, stating, “Populist politicians are playing with fire by encouraging dangerous trends under the guise of freedom of expression.”

The announcement of the contest also provoked strong reactions beyond the Netherlands. In Pakistan, thousands marched towards the capital, Islamabad, in a protest organized by the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik. The protesters demanded that Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries sever ties with the Netherlands. In Afghanistan, the Taliban urged Afghan soldiers to attack Dutch troops serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission as retaliation for what they called a blasphemous action.

Amid growing threats and security concerns, Wilders ultimately decided to cancel the contest. “To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead,” he said in a written statement, citing death threats and concerns for public safety. Earlier, a Dutch judge had extended the detention of a man who had allegedly threatened to attack Wilders.

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