• 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
Swedes shell out for season's first lobster
Meet Pontus Johansson and his lobster. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Best not to look at the price tag.

Witnesses 'afraid to talk' to police about Malmö shooting
Police investigating the shooting in Malmö. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Police are appealing for witnesses to a shooting which killed a man and injured three in a residential street of Malmö – but it is an uphill battle.

Opinion
Swedish leaders need to be prepared for tech challenges
Will robots take over your jobs? Photo: Eric Piermont/AP

Will your job still exist in ten years' time? How will society and businesses adapt to the advancements that are on their way?

Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape'
Tech star Tayyab Shabab, who is being threatened with deportation. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Swedish politicians are keen to talk up the country's startups – but their migration rules threaten to strangle them, argues The Local's managing editor James Savage.

Startup heavyweights back tech ace told to leave Sweden
Spotify founder Daniel Ek is one of the big tech names backing Tayyab Shabab (right). Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SvD/TT & personal

Major names in the tech community have rallied behind a developer who was told he must leave Sweden within a month due to an admin error made by his former employer.

Why Sweden could deport hundreds of refugee children
A home for lone refugee children in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Several hundred lone refugee children could now be sent home from Sweden due to a change in how the rule on exceptional circumstances is applied when making asylum decisions.

Rare and horny ox spotted looking for ladies in Sweden
The ox in question. Photo: Pia Jäderberg

Unfortunately he isn't likely to be successful.

Russian bombers spook Sweden-bound flight
A Russian Tupolev bomber not related to the story. Photo: STR/TT

A flight bound for Stockholm from Reykjavik got a nasty surprise last week when its pilot spotted two Russian bombers from his window.

One dead after Malmö drive-by shooting
Police cars outside the hospital where some of the people shot were taken. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

UPDATED: One of the four men injured in a drive-by shooting in Malmö has died, police confirmed on Monday.

In pictures
How a Swedish hotel reunited this bear with his best friend
The bear having a croissant for breakfast. Photo: Kristoffer Kinnunen/Hotel Avalon

A Gothenburg hotel's attempt to track down the owner of this lost teddy bear turned into something much bigger.

Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
Blog updates

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 

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 »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
Gallery
People-watching: September 9th-11th
The Local Voices
Shakib, 23, works and pays taxes — but will Sweden let him stay?
National
Watch this Swede roll his kayak without spilling his beer. Respect.
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,962
jobs available