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Geert Wilders, screenshot from parliament speech (YouTube)

Counter-terrorism gives green light to Wilders’ Mohammad cartoon contest

Dutch PVV leader Geert Wilders has been given the green light to organise a Mohammed cartoon competition in the Dutch House of Representatives.

Published: June 13, 2018, 7:41 am

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    The National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security Dick Schoof sees no safety risks because the exhibition will be held in the highly secure and private area, where the PVV party is also housed, situated in parliament, known in Dutch as the Tweede Kamer.

    The spokesman of the NCTV confirmed a tweet from Geert Wilders about the planned contest. “The NCTV has informed the House of Representatives that it has no objection to the exhibition from a safety point of view,” he said.

    Chamber president Khadija Arib also had no objection to the cartoon contest. “No permission is needed for a meeting in its own parliamentary chambers, as Wilders now intends.” Arib, a Moroccan-Dutch politician of the Labour Party has been serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands since 12 December 2015.

    Wilders’ PVV is the leading opposition party in parliament after coming in second place in elections last March.

    Wilders says he will organise the competition later this year, RTL Nieuws reported. He will be part of the panel himself, together with the American cartoonist Bosch Fawstin, who won a prize in 2015 with a cartoon of Mohammed at an event in Texas. The contest was advertised as the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest”.

    Wilders had been invited as a guest there. Shortly after he left, two jihadists tried to carry out an attack on the venue but it failed, wounding only a security guard.

    Two Muslims from Arizona attacked officers with gunfire at the entrance to the exhibit featuring cartoon images of Muhammad at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas on May 3, 2015. The attackers shot a Garland Independent School District (GISD) security officer in the ankle.

    But both were shot and killed by an off duty Garland police officer working as mall security. The FBI had been monitoring the two attackers for years and an undercover agent was right behind them, filming with his camera, when the first shots were fired.

    The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but US officials stated that the attack appears to have been inspired, but not directed, by ISIS.

    An online ISIS persona, Joshua Ryne Goldberg had posted maps to the exhibition, and urged his followers to attack the event. Goldberg pled guilty to federal charges in December 2017.

    His persona was retweeted by one of the attackers on the morning of the attack, and Goldberg claimed responsibility for inciting the attack to multiple news outlets and in his plea agreement.

    A drawing by Bosch Fawstin. Available from theboschfawstinstore

    Fawstin, the winner of the Texas event, is an upcoming American cartoonist and self-proclaimed “recovered Muslim”. He was born into a Muslim family from Albania and raised in the faith before leaving it in his teens.

    His first graphic novel, Table for One was nominated for a Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer award in 2004 as well as an Eisner award – Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition in 2005.

    He is currently producing The Infidel featuring Pigman.

    Wilders said earlier that he was concerned about the erosion of freedom of speech and that it was not about provocation. The contest will be open to anyone, as long as the subject of the submitted cartoon is Mohammed. The main prize is €5000, made available by a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the Dutch daily the Telegraaf reported.

    Wilders acknowledges to the newspaper that the event may involve risks. “Of course it must be safe, but the Kamergebouw [parliament] is safe, the biggest danger is if we limit the free word.”

    He says he does not want to provoke anyone but wants to emphasize that the freedom of speech is a greater concern than the aversion of Muslims to drawings of Mohammad.

    Wilders, who has previously called for the Quran to be banned in the Netherlands and says Islam is a totalitarian faith, has long planned to host such a competition – but had previously been prevented from doing so.

    He has aired a slideshow on Dutch television of the cartoons from the Texas exhibition – after having being been barred from exhibiting the cartoons at parliament.

    “Freedom of speech is threatened, especially for Islam critics,” Wilders said in a statement. “We should never accept that. Freedom of speech is our most important freedom.”

    Islamists have accused Wilders of being an “unscrupulous provocateur”. In 2015, Islamist gunmen killed 12 workers of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris because it had printed cartoons of the Prophet. The publication in a Danish newspaper of a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet in 2005, led to violent protests across the Muslim world.

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