The Danish cartoonist whose caricature of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed sparked global Muslim riots seven years ago says he has no regrets, and wants no censors.
Speaking in an interview this week with the Austrian magazine “News,” Kurt Westergaard said that freedom of speech is too precious to relinquish. "Should we in future let ourselves be censored by Islamic authorities in deeply undemocratic countries?” he asked.
Westergaard's question carried particular relevance in his own personal life: in 2010, he nearly died in an assassination attempt by a Muslim extremist wielding an axe. The would-be murderer, 29-year-old Mohamed Geele, was convicted of attempted terrorism and attempted murder and sentenced to a nine-year prison term in Denmark. He will be deported after serving his time in prison.
Muslims around the world said the image of the Prophet Mohammed drawn by Westergaard, which they believed mocked Islam, had offended them. In response, there were worldwide riots and violence that resulted in a number of deaths.
A similar round of violence resulted in the past two weeks following the release of a trailer translated into Arabic of an amateur video mocking the life of the Prophet Mohammed. More than 30 people have died as a result of the perceived “insult to Islam” – including the savage murder of the United States Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, three American diplomats, two U.S. Marines and numerous others.
The 77-year-old Danish cartoonist today lives with his wife in a home guarded by police on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He goes nowhere without bodyguards, who drive him and his wife around in an armored vehicle.
Nevertheless, Westergaard remains firm about his right to publish his art as he chooses. "Should they be allowed to tell the German chancellor in the future whom she should honor, and whom not? Are we really this far along?”
The comment refers to a citation of his work by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, deemed high controversial over his drawing of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, published in the Jyllands Posten seven years ago.