A Big Victory, or A Bigger Defeat? My Take on The Dutch Caricature Competition

Religion has been a hot topic for humanity for millennia. In fact, any and all intrinsic ideologies that involve an intangible element of devotion and faith have served to catalyse anything from friendly discourses to the genocide of millions throughout recorded human history. In present day, a Dutch politician named Geert Wilders has proven himself to be quite an incendiary catalyst in what can best be described as the next ‘holy war’, with the crucible located some 7700 Kilometres away –Pakistan.

Geert Wilders is a right wing Dutch politician with strong anti-Islamic views, which are reflected in his blatantly pubic rhetoric condemning practices of the Hijab and immigration of Muslim refugees to the Netherlands. In his latest show of xenophobic bravado, Geert pledged to organize a Prophet Muhammad caricature competition in November, which was to be held in his party’s heavily fortified offices in the Hague’s parliament complex.

After word of the competition got out, Muslim’s around the world were in an uproar, but none matched the ferocity of a particular subset of Pakistanis. A subset that adheres to the religio-political ideology of the TLP, or Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which is spearheaded by Khadim Rizvi. TLP rose to prominence in the Pakistani political stratosphere following the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri as a bastion of puritanical Islamic thought, advocating the assimilation of Sharia Law into the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the government.

TLP’s outrage reached its penultimate apex when Khadim Rizvi decided to conduct a long march from Lahore to the Pak Secretariat in Islamabad, demanding the government to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands. His march was brought to a halt, however, when it was found out that the caricature competition had now been cancelled. Now the real question is, what changed? The ruling PTI government claims it was their coalition with Turkey and Kuwait that pressurized the Dutch government into taking action, TLP cohorts claim it was the socio-economic pressure imposed by their long march and the threat of the subsequent protest in the Capital that did the trick, but it is hard to believe that mere words and theatrics in a land so geopolitically disconnected from the epicentre of transpiring events some 8000km away had the power to deter such a determined and audacious political party from carrying out their magnum opus.

In reality, it could’ve been a far darker reason. A 26-year-old man, allegedly of Pakistani origin, was arrested this week in The Hague for threatening Geert and his compatriots with acts of violence and terrorism. “It’s not just about me,” Wilders said in the statement to Associated Press. Strong opponents of the event “see not only me, but the entire Netherlands as a target.” Many critics argue that it was a provocative PR stunt geared at winning his party votes in the upcoming elections, at a time when immigrant crime is at an all-time high, and so is the accompanying anti-immigrant rhetoric amongst the citizenry.

The steps taken by Imran Khan’s PTI were commendable, but they were not enough. One must realize that this was still a victory for anti-Islamic rhetoric peddlers around the world, as they were able to substantiate that if not most, but at least a significant minority of Muslims fit their derogatory stereotypes.


Wilders claiming to end competition in fears of violent retaliations
Wilders claiming to end competition in fears of violent retaliations. Source: Washington Post


Because, almost like clockwork, angered extremist Muslims around the world resorted to either threats of violence and terrorism, or large scale socio-political disruptions to various governments and establishments to stop this competition from taking place. Islam is a religion of 1.8 billion adherents worldwide, so it is understandable that such competitions strike a nerve with the majority. But at a time when Islam is under such immense global scrutiny, it’s followers should approach these matters with absolute tact and diplomacy. It is well documented in the annals of history that mere words and actions can have timeless ramifications. After all, it only took the assassination of one Archduke Franz Ferdinand to predestine the death of 37 million in the resultant First World War.