Sympathy for the Head-Butted Swedish Cartoonist

Political artists defend freedom of expression

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In a chaotic outburst, Swedish political cartoonist Lars Vilks was reportedly head-butted by a man in Sweden. Vilks has been a target since he depicted the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog in 2007. He also has a $100,000 bounty on his head issued by Al-Qaeda. The threat political satirists face from Muslim extremists was recently broached by 17 Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists in a petition concerning a recent South Park episode. The Washington Post's Michael Cavna recently reached out to two cartoonists for their comment on the attack:

  • Cartoons Don't Kill People, Fanaticism Does, says Signe Wilkinson of the Philadephia Daily News: "I send my sympathies to the European cartoonists who have born the brunt of this inexplicable lack of humor. I also send my sympathies to all the good-natured Muslims who get a bad name as a consequence of the bad actions of a few. And I am grateful that most of the Muslims in this country came, in part, for the freedom of expression they don't have in a lot of their home countries. They seem to get the fact that cartoons don't kill people -- crazy religious fanatics do."
  • Stay Strong Vilks, says Ann Telnaes, who also signed that petition: "I send my sympathies to all the cartoonists who have been attacked and threatened. It is ironic that this assault on Lars Vilks happened at a university, a place where ideas and debates should be expressed freely."
  • We Must Stand Up to the Fanatics  Gawker's Hamilton Noltan also weighed in: "The fact that so many American media and academic institutions have caved into the imagined fear of such religious fascists is shameful. If the free societies of the world can't stand up for a person's right to draw a... cartoon without becoming the victim of a multinational assassination plot, well, we lose."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.