Exhibition of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohamed cancelled amid security fears

Depicting images of the Prophet is insulting to many Muslims and this has been used as a justification for violence by extreme Islamists in the past

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An exhibition of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in London has been cancelled after its organiser, a former Ukip candidate who runs Sharia Watch UK, decided it was too dangerous.

The exhibition had been due to be addressed by Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who has previously described Mohamed as “the devil” and claimed the Koran is a “fascist book” that should be banned.

Depicting images of the Prophet is insulting to many Muslims and this has been used as a justification for violence by extreme Islamists in the past.

In January, 11 people were killed when two men armed with assault rifles attacked the office of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.


However, an anti-Islamophobia group said that Mr Wilders’ invitation to speak at the exhibition, which was planned for September, showed it was more about inflaming tension than defending free speech.

Writing on Sharia Watch UK’s website, the exhibition’s organiser Anne Marie Waters said that she had decided there was a “very real possibility that people could be hurt or killed – before, during, and after the event”.

“Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with both Scotland Yard and counter-terror detectives. My conclusion? That the risk of running this exhibition is simply too high,” she said.

“When setting out to do something like this, one has to be prepared for the possibility of threats, or even violence, but it’s easy to underestimate the impact such things will have on the people around you.”

Anne-Marie Waters speaking at the Oxford Union in 2013 (YouTube)

She also said that the venue for the exhibition – which had been kept secret – had pulled out “citing security and insurance concerns”.

“Given the fear that people were feeling generally, the only responsible thing to do was to pull back and try to learn some lessons,” Ms Waters said. “I have not learnt lessons as much as I have had my suspicions confirmed. 

Mr Wilders was banned from entering the UK in 2009 with the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith labelling him an “undesirable person” following his comments about Islam.

Despite that he flew to Heathrow, but was deported back to the Netherlands. The ban was overturned later in the year.

Speaking to The Independent last month, Fiyaz Mughal, director of the anti-Islamophobia group Tell Mama, said the exhibition was “not about free speech” as billed, but was simply designed to “irritate and inflame”.

“Inviting a man who is currently awaiting trial for racial hatred after vowing to make sure there were ‘fewer Moroccans’ in Holland is hardly the poster boy any sane or reasonable campaign wants to have as their keynote speaker,” he said.

“Let us not be fooled that this is about testing the boundaries of free speech. If they wanted that, they would do it without people like Wilders and that says it all.”

Ms Waters stood as the Ukip candidate in Lewisham East in May’s general election, coming third with 9.1 per cent of the vote.