Swedish Artist Lar Vilks Still Fights Counter-Jihad
On September 11, 2012, your humble blogger was privileged to meet, and literally stand with, Lars Vilks the renowned “Mohammed-as-Dog” cartoonist. We met at the Stop Islamization of Nations (SION) World Congress in Defense of Free Speech in New York City. Meeting Mr. Vilks in the context of a Free Speech conference takes on added meaning after the savage Charlie Hebdo attack that left 12 dead in Paris merely because they dared to satirize Islam’s purported prophet. To his credit, even after the Paris attack, Mr. Vilks does not cower before the Jihadists:
STOCKHOLM (WSJ)—Swedish artist Lars Vilks was comparing notes a few months ago with [Gérard Biard] the editor-in-chief of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Both had faced death threats over drawings of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
Mr. Biard survived the Jan. 7 attack by two Islamic extremists on the Charlie Hebdo offices, but 12 others were killed. The gunmen said they were seeking vengeance for caricatures the paper ran lampooning the prophet.
For Mr. Vilks, who has long been a critic of Islam, the assault was a chilling reminder that the danger hasn’t gone away.
Life for Mr. Vilks changed dramatically in 2007 when one of his most notorious drawings of Muhammad as a dog on a traffic circle was published in the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda to illustrate an editorial on freedom of expression.
The publication led to violent demonstrations across the Middle East and prompted the extremist group then known as al Qaeda in Iraq to put a $150,000 bounty on Mr. Vilks’ head.
Back then, jihadists targeting individual artists was almost unheard of in Sweden and Mr. Vilks was left to fend for himself. That changed in 2010, after Stockholm’s first suicide bombing brought the threat of Islamic extremism home, and Mr. Vilks was the target of two other attacks.
Since then, he has been under 24-hour police watch, and the protection was beefed up further after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Before the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he said, critics accused him of exaggerating safety risks and seeking fame by gratuitously belittling and ridiculing what Muslims deem sacred.
Mr. Vilks said he agrees that ridiculing religion in itself doesn’t have a value—“you need to have a point.” But he rejects the idea that artists and satirists should tread more carefully in their criticism of Islam.