“I have joined the group Kill Lars Vilks,” the artist confirmed.
Vilks’ notorious sketch of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog was published in 2007, and since then he has lived in threat for his life. He was recently attacked at a lecture in Uppsala and his home was targeted in an arson attack.
Furthermore a woman sits interred in a US jail for allegedly plotting to kill the previously little known Swedish artist.
In response to recent events a group of ex-Muslims arranged a discussion meeting on Monday and invited Vilks to talk about the defence of freedom of expression and to stand up to extremist Islamist violence.
“It doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong to draw Muhammad, but he has a right to do so. Others have as much right to protest, but they have to learn that they can not threaten,” Karim Shamihammadi, who represents the secular group, said.
The meeting was arranged to take place at Medborgarhuset in central Stockholm just a few hundred metres from the main city mosque.
Vilks was keen to stress that the incident in Uppsala did not involve people representative of the group often generally referred to as “Muslims”.
“It is a question of a small clique who should not be given the opportunity to grow,” Vilks said.
Despite calling them “a howling mob” the artist has been seeking contact with his enemies and opponents via Facebook, active in groups such as Kill Lars Vilks (Döda Lars Vilks) and We Who Hate Lars Vilks (Vi som hatar Lars Vilks).
“I have joined all of those groups. Many are intransigent, but there are a couple who are ready to discuss,” he told the media after the meeting.
Vilks reported that he had been in contact with around a hundred people, even some who had threatened his life.
“There are a surprising number that can be engaged in discussion, they can in some way understand me.”
Through contact with these groups Vilks claims he has been invited to speak in immigrant areas of Sweden, such as Rosengård in Malmö and Rinkeby in Stockholm. Vilks confirms that he is prepared to do so, but it is up to the police to determine the security situation.
“It would be construed as a provocation if I just wandered in there and showed my face,” he said.