‘Hatred masquerading as freedom of speech’ – The BMF condemns Geert Wilders’ cartoon contest in Holland

The British Muslim Forum, reflecting the sentiments and strong feelings of the Muslim community, vehemently condemns the announcement of the far-right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who has vowed to hold a competition to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) towards the end of this year.

The cartoon contest is being defended under the pretext of freedom of speech, yet its consequences are detrimental to it and must be halted by virtue of the laws on hate speech. At the heart of this theatrical provocation, as well as past activities of this kind promoted by Mr Wilders, lies hatred and an incitement to discrimination, hostility and social discord. When such outbursts of hatred are allowed to publically go unchecked, then it is the victim minority communities who suffer not only discrimination, but attacks and abuse, as the attacks on Muslims continue to rise across Europe and in this country.

The actions of Mr Wilders and his attacks on Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) have very harmful consequences. In an atmosphere of growing divisions in society, mistrust between communities, rise of Islamophobia, far-right extremism and anti-Semitism, there is urgent need for sanity and genuine leadership from the political class in order to protect the fabric of a free society.

Expressions of hatred towards a particular community and any communication which is threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress someone are quite clearly acts of hate. The blurring of lines between hate and freedom must be clearly defined for the betterment of society as a whole. The effect of people who deliberately set out to hurt people with their actions and the consequences of some people encouraging hate crime are not conducive to the common good of societies. The Dutch society is open and tolerant, yet this competition and hate-filled exhibition flies in the face of those values.

The British Muslim Forum calls on the British and Dutch governments, European organisations, international bodies and human rights institutions to put pressure on halting this vile cartoon contest and to demonstrate global leadership in providing a way forward in dealing with inciteful acts of hate with binding legal instruments to prevent incitement, racism, discrimination and religious hatred. Peace, respect and security for all people and their beliefs must be preserved. Hatred cannot be allowed to masquerade as freedom of speech.

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