Danish cartoonist defiant despite threats



COPENHAGEN, Slim Allagui - Kurt Westergaard has remained defiant in the face of repeated death threats following his controversial drawing of the prophet Mohammed.
The Danish cartoonist sparked violent protests in the Muslim world with a drawing of Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, published in the Jyllands-Posten daily newspaper in September 2005.



Kurt Westergaard
Kurt Westergaard
Threats to his life forced Westergaard to move house repeatedly, and both Danish and US authorities have intervened to stop plots to kill him. The 74-year-old spent three years in hiding.
"We have had to move house numerous times and to change car for a long time," he told the Danish Free Press Society's Sappho magazine in late 2008, saying he missed his home and his bed.
In 2009 he returned home to the town of Aarhus in central Denmark, thinking the threats against him were at an end.
On Friday a 28-year-old Somali man armed with an axe and a knife broke into the cartoonist's home -- which is under police guard night and day -- screaming for "revenge" and "blood."
Westergaard survived by hiding in a panic room with his five-year-old granddaughter and calling the police.
Past attempts on his life have not intimidated the cartoonist.
"They can threaten me, but they will not make me give in," he told the Sappho magazine in October 2009.
"I am not afraid, but I am angry at being subjected to threats just for doing my job," he said, adding that anger helped him overcome fear.
Friends say that during his 26-year career as an artist, Westergaard, a former German teacher, has been known for his vivid and at times provocative imagination.
His drawing of Mohammed completely changed his life -- to his great surprise.
"I never imagined these cartoons would cause such a storm," he said during a debate on Danish television in September 2006, pointing out that his drawing was "not directed against Islam itself."
"But freedom of expression includes disrespect, which can be hurtful and offensive," he said.
The Danish Free Press Society awarded him its Sappo prize in 2008 in recognition of his courage and his "unbending defence of free speech, the right to criticise religion and fundamental Danish freedoms".
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Sunday, January 3rd 2010
Slim Allagui
           


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