Between 2,000 and 3,000 protesters in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad threatened to surround and pelt the Dutch embassy with stones for allowing a far-right member of parliament to hold a cartoon contest depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.
The protesters broke through several barriers put up by the police, though they could not get close to the embassy, which is housed in a highly protected diplomatic enclave along with most other embassies.
Led by local leaders from an Islamist party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the demonstrators demanded that their government break their diplomatic relationship with the Netherlands.
Pakistani protesters shout slogans to condemn a cartoon contest by Dutch parliamentarian, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Aug. 17, 2018.
“We want the Dutch embassy to be closed, the ambassador to be sent back, and to call the Pakistani ambassador back from the Netherlands,” said Zaheer Sultan, who had come from out of town for the protest. He said he was not called by any political party.
“I do not belong to any party and no one asked me to come here,” he said. “I use Facebook where I saw a couple of videos and then contacted those pages to find out about today’s protest.”
At one point, protesters demanded their government write a letter to the United Nations asking the organization to extract an apology from the Dutch government.
Dutch MP Geert Wilders announced in June he would hold a competition at his party’s parliamentary offices later this year. He said the country’s counterterrorism agency had approved his plans.
Famous for his anti-Islam rhetoric, Wilders previously has called for the Quran to be banned, and he declared Islam a totalitarian ideology.
Many Muslims consider visual depictions of their prophet blasphemous. Cartoons of the prophet have caused violence in the past.
In 2015, Islamist gunmen attacked a French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris for printing cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. Twelve people were killed.
Ten year earlier, protests broke out around the world when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten first published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. One of the cartoons showed the prophet with a bomb in his turban.
The party leading the protest, TLP, gained nationwide fame last year when it blocked the capital for almost a month over an issue related to the prophet.
In elections last month, the party fielded hundreds of candidates on national and provincial assembly seats. While it only won two seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh and none in the national assembly, the high number of votes it received in many constituencies surprised pundits.
In Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, TLP emerged as the third-largest party according to the number of votes counted.
Source: Voice of America