Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was killed in a car accident last Sunday near the town of Markyard, Sweden. The 75 year-old cartoonist had been living under police protection ever since his cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad were published, stirring worldwide controversy. Up till now, there are no indications that the collision leading to his death had anyone else involved. The police car Vilks had been traveling in collided with a truck, resulting in not only his death, but two other police officers as well.
Many Muslims all over the world were outraged by the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, and soon after, the cartoonist received death threats, including his house being fire-bombed. According to Vilks, his depictions of the Prophet Muhammad were not meant to necessarily provoke or offend Muslims and Islam as a whole, but instead, to break the boundaries of political correctness within art, and challenge it. Ever since the publications of the cartoon in 2007, Vilks was a target for numerous assassination attempts, and remained under police protection starting from 2010. His depiction of the Prophet Muhammad on the body of a dog was particularly offensive to many Muslims worldwide, as the depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemous. As a result of the publication, Sweden’s then Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt met with ambassadors from 22 Muslims nations in order to de-escalate the situation.
“I’m actually not interested in offending the prophet. The point is actually to show that you can. There is nothing so holy you can’t offend it,” Vilks said to a journalist in Sweden at the time. In addition to the ambassadors meeting with the then Swedish Prime Minister and the global outrage, Al Qaeda also put a bounty on Vilks, offering £73,692 to whoever kills him, and stated that $50,000 extra would be given if the weapon of choice was a knife.
After the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, France were attacked in 2015, Lars Vilks had attended a debate event at a cafe one month later under the name “Art, Blasphemy, and the Freedom of Expression” in Copenhagen, when a gunman murdered a film director at the cafe.