Vilks takes fight to Facebook foes

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has joined a Facebook group entitled Kill Lars Vilks in order to engage in discussion with his antagonists as part of his ongoing art project to explore the bounds of free speech.

Vilks takes fight to Facebook foes

“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.

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‘Jihadist’ in Swedish cartoonist plot arrested

The man, who was travelling with an Irish passport, is wanted by authorities in the US for being part of an al-Qaeda cell suspected of planning an attack on a Swedish cartoonist.

'Jihadist' in Swedish cartoonist plot arrested
The suspect in Spain. Photo: Mossos d'Esquadra

Ali Charaf Damache was detained on Thursday evening at a hotel in the tourist heart of Barcelona, the Catalan regional Interior Ministry confirmed on Friday.

Police were alerted to his presence in Barcelona thanks to a telephone tip-off to the emergency 112 number.

“We became aware that this person was in Barcelona earlier this week,” said Jordi Jané, the regional interior minister for Catalonia in a press conference.

The 50-year-old holds both Irish and Algerian nationality and is wanted by the United States for alleged membership of a terrorist cell linked to al-Qaeda that recruited and radicalized Muslims and financed and planned terrorist attacks.
The US issued an international arrest warrant for him in July 2011 and he was detained in Ireland last year although two extradition requests were denied and he was allowed to go free.
The US alleges Damache conspired with American woman Colleen LaRose, who used the online name Jihad Jane, and others to create a terror cell in Europe.
LaRose was sentenced in January 2014 to 10 years in prison after being convicted of planning to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had depicted the head of the Muslim prophet Mohammad on a dog.
Lars Vilks emerged unscathed from an attack in Copenhagen last February in which two people died when a gunman opened fire during a talk on freedom of expression in which the cartoonist was taking part.