Lars Vilks

Lars Vilks, Gay Muhammad and Freedom of Expression

This past week brings news of yet another fracas involving Swedish cartoon artist Lars Vilks (CNN.com):

When Vilks entered a classroom where he was to deliver a lecture to about 250 people — all of whom had passed through a security checkpoint to gain admission — about five people started protesting loudly, Eronen said.

After Uppsala uniformed and non-uniformed police calmed the protesters, the lecture got under way at about 5:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. ET), Eronen said.

But as Vilks was showing audiovisual material, 15 to 20 audience members became loud and tried to attack Vilks, he said.

As police stepped in, a commotion started and Vilks was taken to a nearby room; police used pepper spray and batons to fend off the protesters, Eronen said. Vilks did not return to the lecture. [Video footage of the event].

Last March, an American woman who called herself “Jihad Jane,” Colleen LaRose, was indicted in the United States for allegedly conspiring to support terrorists and kill Vilks.

In a 2007 interview with CNN he had drawn the cartoon of Mohammed with a dog’s body in order to take a stand.

“I don’t think it should not be a problem to insult a religion, because it should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way, “ says Vilks from his home in rural Sweden.

“If you insult one, then you should insult the other ones.”

His crude, sketched caricature shows the head of Prophet Mohammed on the body of a dog. Dogs are considered unclean by conservative Muslims, and any depiction of the prophet is strictly forbidden.

Vilks, who has been a controversial artist for more than three decades in Sweden, says his drawing was a calculated move, and he wanted it to elicit a reaction.

“That’s a way of expressing things. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. And if you look at it, don’t take it too seriously. No harm done, really,” he says.

When it’s suggested that might prove an arrogant — if not insulting — way to engage Muslims, he is unrelenting, even defiant.

“No one actually loves the truth, but someone has to say it,” he says.

Vilks, a self-described atheist, points out he’s an equal opportunity offender who in the past sketched a depiction of Jesus as a pedophile.

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