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Lars Vilks egged at 'Muhammad' lecture

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Lars Vilks egged at 'Muhammad' lecture
12:47 CET+01:00
Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks was forced to dodge eggs thrown by angry audience members while giving a lecture about his Muhammad cartoons and free expression at the University of Karlstad on Tuesday.

”They were also shouting some slogans. We removed them as well as two people who had started shouting back at the 15 (egg throwers). At the time it was a bit tumultuous but the commotion only lasted for about a minute,” said Tommy Lindh of the local police to news agency TT.

Vilks was lecturing on freedom of speech at the university on Tuesday evening at the invitation of the university's association of international affairs (Utrikespolitiska föreningen).

The local Islamic Culture Association (Islamiska kulturföreningen) and Karlstad Young Muslims (Unga muslimer i Karlstad) had called for a boycott of the lecture earlier in the day, writing in a statement that Vilks ”abuses the freedom of speech that we all enjoy and uses it in such a way as to create tension sin society”

Vilks began his lecture bringing up examples of artists who have challenged the boundaries of freedom of speech in different ways, several of whom have been reported to the police and convicted.

Among these was an exhibition on pornographic images of children, Malmö street artist Dan Park's poster of a black man in chains with the text "Our Negro slave has run away”, Vilks's own caricature of the prophet Muhammed as a dog and Jesus as a paedophile, according to a university statement.

A short while into the lecture, fifteen people suddenly rose and began throwing eggs at Vilks.

Two other members of the audience reacted against the attack and started shouting at the egg-throwers.

However, police officers present at the speech were quickly able to remove the disturbing elements from the auditorium and the lecture could continue.

According to the police, no one has been arrested as of yet, nor was Vilks hit by any of the eggs thrown by the irate members of the audience as he was rushed off stage.

”We have yet to decide whether or not a criminal act has been committed. Vilks might also report the incident himself,” said Lindh to Sveriges Television (SVT).

The university association for international affairs were pleased with the visit, despite the attack.

”It is important that we are able to discuss questions about freedom of speech and democracy at the university. We regret that this occurred but we are happy that we could carry on,” said Mazlom Dogan of the association in a statement.

Police couldn't elaborate on what the egg throwers had been chanting as they staged their attack. But according to Lindh the officers who were present are likely to have heard what was being shouted.

Vilks told local paper Nya Wermlands Tidningen (NWT) that while no one should accept these kind of attacks, they are hard to avoid if one wants to be able to make everyone welcome to a public event.

Also, it isn't the first time he has encountered threatening behaviour.

”I have been around the block before,” Vilks said to NWT.

At the end of the lecture many in the audience wanted to know what reactions Vilks wanted to get from his art and whose responsibility these reactions were.

”Insults are part of democratic society. If we begin censoring ourselves it will mean undermining freedom of speech in the long run. I don't think that the problem is that artists are too provocative but that we are not provocative enough,” said Vilks in answer to their questions.

According to NWT, police have identified several of the attackers and have reported the incident as assault and disturbing a public assembly.

Video of the incident from local newspaper Värmlands Folkblad

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