Geert Wilders
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Texas, last monthReuters

Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were aired on Dutch TV last night (24 June), in a three-minute advert for the far-right Freedom Party led by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders.

The series of 10 cartoons had previously been shown at an exhibition in Texas which was attacked by two gunmen.

Included, were cartoons showing Muhammad over a bloodstained globe holding a dagger and sword, and the prophet juggling a severed head while riding a unicycle.

In the broadcast on national broadcaster NOS, Wilders claimed to be defending freedom of speech.

"The only way to show terrorists that they are not going to win is to do exactly what they do not want us to do," Wilders said. "I do not broadcast the cartoons to provoke; I do it because we have to show that we stand for freedom of speech and that we will never surrender to violence. Freedom is our birthright. Freedom of speech must always prevail over violence and terror."

He said that he was forced to show the cartoons on television after the Dutch parliament refused to host the exhibition.

The broadcast comes six months after Islamist gunmen murdered 12 staff members at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In the May attack in Texas near Dallas, two gunmen with Islamist links were shot dead by police at a Muhammad cartoons competition organised by far-right US activist Pamela Geller. Wilders was a keynote speaker at the event.

Dutch regulators said that they do not vet political broadcasts, but if a political party is found to have broken hate-speech legislation they can be banned from broadcasting political messages on television for up to four years, reports AFP.

Muslim groups said they would not be provoked by Wilders.

"Wilders is trying to provoke Muslims and we are ignoring him," said Aissa Zanzen, spokesman for the Council of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands.

The council released its own cartoon, depicting the bouffant-haired Wilders as a spoilt child shouting in front of a bomb he believes to be detonating in Dutch society, while Muslims and other Dutch citizens get on with their lives and ignore him.

Ahead of the broadcast, the Dutch government sent memos to embassies and consulates worldwide warning of potential ramifications, and stressing that the broadcast was not government sponsored.