Pakistan’s senate has unanimously passed a resolution condemning an anti-Islam cartoon contest planned by a far-right Dutch politician – one of the first actions taken by the assembly since last month’s general election.
Senators in the upper house of parliament formally protested on Monday the announcement by Dutch opposition MP Geert Wilders to hold a Prophet Muhammad caricature competition in the Netherlands later this year.
In his first address to the senate in the capital, Islamabad, newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to take the issue to the United Nations General Assembly in September, calling it a “collective failure of the Muslim world”.
“Very few in the West understand the pain caused to Muslims by such blasphemous activities,” said Khan.
“Our government will raise the matter in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and get the countries there to come up with a collective policy that could then be brought up at international forums. This should have been done a long time ago.
“I understand the Western mindset as I have spent a lot of time there. They do not understand the love Muslims feel for the Prophet.”
Last week, Pakistan foreign office summoned the Dutch ambassador to lodge a protest against the blasphemous competition, expressing its “deep concern at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam”.
Pakistan’s far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a Barelvi political party, has threatened to lead a protest march from the eastern city of Lahore to the capital Islamabad on Wednesday unless the government “cuts diplomatic ties” with the Netherlands.
“We will be out on the streets,” Ejaz Ashrafi, TLP’s information secretary, told Al Jazeera. “If there’s an attack on the Prophet’s honour, how can a Muslim sit at home? This is against our faith!”
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) August 6, 2018
Ashrafi said his party would lead a march “of thousands” and would hold a sit-in protest if their demands were not met.
In November, the TLP blockaded the capital for three weeks, protesting a minor change in an electoral oath that firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the TLP’s chief, declared to be “blasphemous”.
“We want action, not words, now,” said Ashrafi. “This issue must be resolved in an emergency manner, otherwise we will be out on the streets.”
Physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad are forbidden in Islam.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of insulting Prophet Muhammad, and life imprisonment for those found to defile the Quran.
Wilders, widely known for his fierce criticism of Islam and Muslims, announced in June his plans to organise a competition of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in November.
The Dutch government has distanced itself from the event.
Wilders, who leads the second-biggest party in the Dutch parliament, claims to have received more than 200 entries so far. Last date for entry is August 31.
Winners of the competition will be announced at his Freedom Party offices in The Hague, local media reported, with a $10,000 cash award going to the first-place entry.
With additional reporting by Asad Hashim in Islamabad