ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday lodged strong protest with his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok over the caricatures competition organised by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders.

“This evening I spoke to the Dutch foreign minister and apprised him about the sentiments in Pakistan and the Muslim World over the issue,” Mr Qureshi said at a press conference.

Mr Blok, however, expressed his helplessness on the matter. He told Mr Qureshi that the Dutch government considered the issue as a matter of freedom of expression and would not curtail that. He, however, noted that it was an “individual action”.

Mr Qureshi said that he reminded his counterpart that such actions promoted extremism and warned that on certain occasions these “individual actions” proved too costly.

Says the event in Holland will promote extremism

Wilders leads the Dutch Party for Freedom, which is the second largest party in the Dutch Parliament and is deeply anti-Muslim. He says that Dutch counterterrorism agency had permitted him to hold the competition on the parliamentary premises. The organiser claims that he has so far received couple of hundred entries that would be judged by an American cartoonist.

With sentiments running high, it is feared that the competition could lead to violence.

“The Dutch government should not ignore the matter,” FM Qureshi underscored and called for unity among Muslim countries on the matter. “We need to speak with one voice,” he added.

Turkey, he said, had agreed to raise the matter jointly with Pakistan in an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next month. Mr Qureshi is leading the Pakistani delegation at the meeting.

Speaking to Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who called to greet him on assumption of office, Mr Qureshi said: “There is strong resentment in Pakistan, like the rest of the Islamic world, on the news of an international competition on caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being organised in Holland”.

The two foreign ministers agreed to raise the issue with the Dutch government with one voice, under the banner of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Mr Qureshi said he had written letters to six foreign ministers of OIC member countries asking them to adopt a joint stance on the issue.

OIC session

According to APP, Mr Qureshi called upon the OIC to summon an urgent session for adopting unanimous position in response to the planned Dutch blasphemous event. “I have also written a letter to the secretary general of OIC to summon an urgent session,” he said. The OIC was an effective forum for reflecting the sentiments of the 1.6 billion Muslims across the globe, he added.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2018


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