In the latest sign the enlightened world is refusing to compromise hard-won values for religious sensitivities, Dutch far-right leader, Geert Wilders, says Dutch TV will broadcast controversial cartoons involving the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons were meant to be aired on Saturday.
According to Wilders, a “misunderstanding” was why they were not aired as scheduled. The cartoons were released at a US event last month, at which Wilders was a speaker, and which underwent an attack by two men who were eventually shot fatally by security.
Wilders first accused the TV station of purposefully cancelling his segment, but retracted his accusation and claimed it was a misunderstanding, tweeting, “I have just spoken to NPO boss Hagoort. It seems to have been a misunderstanding.”
Parliament would not allow the cartoons on its premises. They were meant to be an important part of Wilders’ presentation at the Texas event, and political party broadcasts are permitted to include almost anything. A contest at that same conference offered a $10,000 (£6,300) reward for a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
According to Anna Holligan of BBC, Wilders has been on a crusade against Islam. Pictures of Muhammad are considered offensive to Muslims, and Wilders has expressed his dislike of the religion, and wanted the Koran banned in the Netherlands.
The TV slot, intended for political parties and their views, instead showed a feature on migrants.
Wilders, angry about the cancellation, distributed the cartoons on social media. They include a bearded man in disguise, including one in which he wears robes and overlooks a bloodied map of the world. Yet another features him with a beard full of snakes.
The broadcast’s timing appears purposeful, as it occurs during Ramadan, a holy month for Islam. Dutch embassies are on alert with the knowledge that Wilders plans to exhibit the cartoons. Protests and violence following similar actions, such as the Charlie Hebdo incident, and the death of a film director during a free speech rally in Copenhagen, suggest Wilders’ actions could have serious, violent consequences.
Yet increasingly many groups, from France to Texas to the Netherlands, are willing to take this chance to defend civil and political liberties that took generations to win. Many radical Islamists are fundamentally opposed to basic human rights such as freedom of speech, religious tolerance, secularism and women’s equality, a stance that is putting them in direct confrontation with various groups willing to defend their rights and not willing to back down – at all costs.