Swedish artist to continue painting Prophet Mohammed even after death threats
A Swedish artist who received death threats after depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a dog said Wednesday he would display new paintings of the prophet at an exhibition in the immigrant-heavy city of Malmoe later this year.
“It’s important to continue because if you yield to the threats and back away, you have abandoned the democratic principle,” Lars Vilks said.
The artist has faced numerous death threats since his drawing of the Muslim prophet with the body of a dog was first published by Swedish regional daily Nerikes Allehanda in 2007, illustrating an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.
The new paintings of Mohammed would show the prophet — still with a dog’s body — in famous works by artists including Claude Monet, Peter Paul Rubens and Anders Zorn, Vilks said.
It was “hard to tell” whether the July exhibition at a gallery in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmoe, would prompt more protests and threats, he said.
“At some point this has to be over and done with,” he said.
With one in three of its residents born outside Sweden, Malmoe has been at the centre of a polarising Swedish debate on immigration. The city’s Islamic Centre estimates there are 100,000 people with “a Muslim background” in the area.
In 2009, Colleen LaRose, an American woman calling herself “Jihad Jane”, was arrested in the US with seven others for plotting to kill Vilks. She has pleaded guilty to terror charges and faces life behind bars.
Three men accused of plotting to murder him at an art fair were acquitted by a Swedish court in January, but were fined for weapons possession.