• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Who exactly is Swedish artist Lars Vilks?

AFP/The Local · 15 Feb 2015, 11:31

Published: 15 Feb 2015 11:31 GMT+01:00

Vilks was speaking at a debate on Islam and freedom of expression when a gunman fired a volley of shots into the Krudttønden cultural centre, leaving a 55-year-old man dead and three police officers wounded.

The 68-year-old artist has also survived a foiled assassination plot and other attacks since his drawing of the Muslim spiritual leader was published in a local Swedish paper in 2007 with an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

The cartoon prompted protests by Muslims in the town of Örebro, west of Stockholm, where the Nerikes Allehanda daily is based, while Egypt, Iran and Pakistan made formal complaints.

Vilks lives under police protection. While Danish security forces indicated Saturday's attack had been "planned", police said it was not clear whether any particular person had been the target.

His famous drawing appears on the website of his Danish support committee, which had also announced he would be attending the debate on the relation between art, blasphemy and freedom.

The committee awarded French magazine Charlie Hebdo a prize last year given to those it views as the greatest defenders of freedom of expression.

Last month the satirical weekly was targeted by Islamist gunmen, who shot 12 people dead at the publication's Paris offices including several of its cartoonists.

His escape will stir familiar memories for Vilks: in January 2014 an US woman nicknamed "Jihad Jane" was jailed for 10 years for agreeing to murder him, believing her American citizenship and appearance would help her blend in as she attempted the killing.

Colleen LaRose travelled to Europe and tracked Vilks online in an effort to complete the crime, but was unsuccessful.

Prior to that plot, two brothers of Swedish nationality but Kosovar origin were jailed when their personal items were found outside the artist's house in May 2010 after it was attacked with Molotov cocktails.

Although the fire blackened some of the house's exterior it went out on its own without causing much damage. The artist was not at home at the time.

That same week, Vilks was head-butted by a man while others shouted and attempted to attack him when he was giving a lecture at Sweden's Uppsala University.

The attack occurred as he was showing a film by an Iranian filmmaker depicting two homosexuals disguised as Muhammad.

Also in 2010, seven Muslims were arrested in Ireland over an alleged plot to assassinate the artist, who had a $100,000 bounty on his head from an Al-Qaeda-linked group.

Story continues below…

And four men were accused of plotting to kill him at a Gothenburg art fair in September 2011, though they were later acquitted.

"I try to keep my cool. On the bright side, the people who are after me are probably ill-equipped -- these are amateurs," he told AFP in 2010.

"I'm not a fanatical racist, I do not have a political position. I am an artist who seeks the limits," he said.

"I think this is very important, if one wants to talk about freedom of expression and Islam and Muslims, to have a real position to have something sufficiently provocative and transgressive enough to start a debate."

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Sweden's Spotify hits 39 million subscribers
Spotify is gaining listeners. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Spotify has grown by nine million paying subscribers in five months, fending off competition from rivals.

Prosecutor wants asylum stabber convicted of murder
Prosecutor Linda Wiking. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The man was convicted of aggravated manslaughter for stabbing a worker to death at a home for young refugees in Sweden.

Old Swedish cash worth billions still in circulation
Old Swedish money. Photo: Micke Larsson/TT

Hand in your invalid Swedish bills to the bank by the end of the month.

Sweden moves to battle high rate of drug deaths
Sweden has among Europe's highest drug-induced mortality rates. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB/TT

Sweden has among the highest number of drug-related deaths in the EU despite its zero-tolerance policy. The government wants to find out why.

Human skeleton found on abandoned farm in Sweden
Police at the farm in Hörby. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect human remains found in a well on an abandoned farm in rural Sweden belonged to a man who was murdered.

The Local List
You'll never really be Swedish without trying this weird food
Kebab pizza. It exists. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The Local's intern Saina Behnejad on her love-hate relationship with Swedish cuisine.

Sweden's Stenson pulls out of Barclays with injured knee
Henrik Stenson at the Olympics this summer. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Henrik Stenson's injury throws doubt on Europe's chances at next month's Ryder Cup.

The Local Recipes
How to make this delicious Swedish crayfish pasta
Swedish crayfish pasta. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Combine the Swedish favourite of crayfish with pasta to impress with this simple yet tasty dish.

Drunken Christmas goat burner risks four years in jail
The Christmas goat looks at the fireworks and contemplates its future. Photo: Mats Åstrand/TT

His singed eyebrows were a dead giveaway.

Joe Biden: 'Sweden has shown great leadership'
Joe Biden, left, and Stefan Löfven. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

US Vice President Joe Biden praised Sweden for "punching way above its weight" in the global refugee crisis.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Travel
What are Sherpas doing on Sweden's highest mountain?
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
3,395
jobs available