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Car crash, diseases doom 2 anti-Islamic cartoonists

Published : Wednesday, 13 October, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 499

Car crash, diseases doom 2 anti-Islamic cartoonists

Car crash, diseases doom 2 anti-Islamic cartoonists

Two so called top cartoonists, a Swedish and the other a Dane, who mocked and caricatured Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in 2007 and 2005 respectively, died in as many months, while under police protection in fear of reprisal attacks by Muslims.

Of these two anti-Islamic cartoonists, Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who stirred worldwide controversy in 2007 with an insulting caricature of the Prophet of Islam, was killed in a car crash near the southern town of Markaryd, Sweden on October 3 last. Police had protected him for long 14 years from the probable reprisals of the Muslims who were hurt by his drawings. But Vilks could not cheat death, and the two policemen guarding him, were also killed along with him in a car crash and the driver survived with severe wounds.

A bounty of $100,000 was placed on Vilk's head by Al-Qaida in 2007 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. General Muslims also cursed him and others cartoonists who had caricatured the prophet to be killed by the divine punishment.

Before the accidental death of Vilks, the other cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, a Dane, who drew a caricature of Prophet Muhammad in 2005, died in his sleep in Copenhagen on July 14 this year, a day after his 86th birthday due to a long illness. He suffered most part of his life with different illness which could not be literally cured even by the best European doctors. It is said he was divinely cursed to fatal diseases as he insulted a prophet, who was adjudged as the best man the world has ever seen. Like Vilks, Westergaard also had to surrender his privacy to policemen who while giving him protection intruded into and encroached his private life.

Both of them were attempted by hardcore Muslim militants on several occasions and the duo luckily escaped assassination, but the rest of their life was full of uncertainties and agonies. In a nutshell with fear of Muslim reprisal, encroachment of private life by law enforces, prolonged illness unto death, and the fatal transport accidents, the life of the two were nothing but hell. May be because the duo had insulted the most successful Prophet and hurt the sentiment of his millions of Muslim followers.

After the death of the two cartoonists, Muslims reportedly celebrated in social media. But according to observer, mocking, especially of Muslims and their Prophet is not going to be stopped, unless the relevant governments in the western world do not ban caricaturing and insulting revered personalities, in the name of freedom of thoughts, expressions and speech. The observers say there should be a limit of the so called freedom of expressions, in absence of which a section of cartoonists often cross limit and insult Prophets, political leaders and renowned posthumously, without any reasons, hurting millions of their followers and supporters.

The cartoonists mock and satire some active political leaders and other personalities in different democratic societies, where these are common and accepted in modern politics. But mocking and insulting of Prophets, are discouraged in most societies in the world, because all these are likely to erupt social and communal commotions.

Vilks, 75, who had lived under police protection since the drawings were published, was travelling in a police car that collided with a truck. The car, which had left Stockholm and was heading south, veered into the path of the truck and both vehicles burst into flames. Two police officers were also killed. The truck driver was flown to a hospital with serious injuries.

Police said they did not know why the car drove into the wrong lane but they were investigating whether a tyre might have exploded. The car transporting Vilks had puncture-proof tyres, police said. However, exploded tyre remains were reportedly found on the road. However, it seems that police still could not find any cause of the collision and the concerned people thought that the accident was a curse from the divine, for his sinful act of insulting Prophet Muhammad by drawing his caricature.

The Lars Vilks Muhammad drawings controversy began in July 2007 with a series of cartoons drawn by Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Several art galleries in Sweden declined to show the drawings, citing security concerns and fear of violence. The controversy gained international attention after the �rebro-based regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published one of the drawings on August 18, 2007 as part of an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of religion.

While several other leading Swedish newspapers had published the drawings already, this particular publication led to protests from Muslims in Sweden as well as official condemnations from several foreign governments including Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt,  and Jordan, as well as by the inter-governmental Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The controversy occurred about a year and a half after the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy in Denmark in early 2006.

The Prophet Muhammad is deeply revered by Muslims and Islam forbids any kind of visual depiction of him. Since the publication of the cartoons, Vilks had been living under round-the-clock police guard following threats against his life. In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden. In 2014, a woman from the US state of Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in a plot to kill him.

A year later, one person was shot dead by a lone gunman in Copenhagen, Denmark, at a meeting meant to mark the 25th anniversary of an Iranian fatwa against British writer Salman Rushdie, which Vilks attended. Vilks was widely seen as the intended target.

Before Vilks, Kurt Westergaard drew a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2005 and Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons, which triggered several assassinations and murders on September 30, 2005. Muslim groups in Denmark complained, and the issue eventually led to protests around the world, including violent demonstrations and riots in some Muslim countries. Islam has a strong tradition of aniconism, and it is considered highly blasphemous in most Islamic traditions to visually depict Muhammad. This, compounded with a sense that the cartoons insulted Muhammad and Islam, offended many Muslims

After the drawing of the cartoon, Westergaard received numerous death threats and was a target of assassination attempts. As a result, he was under constant police protection. Westergaard was behind one of 12 drawings published by conservative daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 under the headline The Face of Mohammed, with his sparking particular anger. Islamic tradition says no image of the prophet should be produced or shown.

The anger escalated into anti-Danish violence across the Muslim world in 2006 in which dozens died, with Danish embassies attacked, including the one in Damascus which was burned down. The violence linked to the cartoons culminated in a 2015 massacre in France that left 12 people dead at the Paris office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had reprinted the cartoons in 2012.

A total of 17 people were murdered across three days in a series of attacks that horrified France. All three assailants were killed in shootouts with the police, leaving only accomplices to face trial. Death threats against Westergaard personally eventually forced him into hiding. In 2008 Denmark's three main newspapers reprinted the cartoon after the arrest of three men for plotting to murder the artist. One was released without charge, another deported and a third sent to an asylum centre.

Observers think the relevant governments and authorities will take steps to discourage cartoonists from insulting and caricaturing revered personalities including the Prophets, to maintain social peace and communal harmony.
The writer is business editor,
The Daily Observer

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