Lars Vilks, cartoonist whose portrayal of the Prophet forced him to live under surveillance during his last decade – obituary
Lars Vilks, who died at the age of 75, was a Swedish artist who gained international notoriety with his drawings featuring the Prophet Muhammad. Spending his last 10 years in state protection after multiple assassination attempts, Vilks was killed in a traffic accident in southwest Sweden, alongside two police bodyguards with which he was traveling.
In June 2007, Vilks was invited to contribute to an exhibition titled Dogs in Art at a local gallery in the Swedish town of Tällerud. His drawings, which showed the Prophet’s head on the body of a robotic dog, were intended as a commentary on political correctness and the limits of art.
“We said that everything had been done, there are no borders [and] everything is possible in art. And I didn’t believe it at all. I knew, for example, that there was one example of a taboo that you never touch, and that is to get into something about Islam, ”Vilks explained at a conference on freedom of movement. expression in 2010.
The gallery, however, got cold feet and the drawings were taken down, resurfacing two months later to illustrate an article about censorship in Nerikes Allehanda, a local Swedish newspaper. After the story was picked up by the national broadsheet Jyllands-Posten, protests from Islamic groups began.
“It started to spread and more and more Muslims were suddenly insulted,” he said. “There have been protests in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Then Iranian President Ahmadinejad said the Jews were behind it all. That’s how it turned south on me.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which represents 57 Muslim countries, condemned the cartoons and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was forced to hold a meeting with ambassadors from 22 Muslim countries in an attempt to calm the situation. Swedish companies operating abroad, including Ericsson, Volvo and Ikea, have been urged to step up security.
In November, a fatwa was issued in the name of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, placing a bounty of £ 74,000 on Vilk’s head and Säpo, the Swedish security service, began to provide the artist with 24 hour protection. Vilk told reporters he used to sleep with an ax next to the bed, but noted wryly: “I guess that makes my art project a little more serious. It is also good to know how much a person is worth.