Kurt Westergaard, Danish cartoonist behind Muhammad cartoon, dies aged 86

His caricature of the prophet Muhammad sparked outrage across the Muslim world

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard at his home near Aarhus, Denmark on June 6th, 2010.  File photograph: Peter Hove Olsen/Polfoto via AP

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard at his home near Aarhus, Denmark on June 6th, 2010. File photograph: Peter Hove Olsen/Polfoto via AP

 

Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, known for drawing a caricature of the prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage around the Muslim world, has died at the age of 86.

Westergaard died in his sleep after a long period of ill-health, his family told the newspaper Berlingske.

The illustrator was behind one of 12 drawings published by conservative daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 under the headline The Face of Mohammed, with Westergaard’s sparking particular anger. Islamic tradition says no image of the prophet should be produced or shown.

The anger escalated into anti-Danish violence across the Muslim world in 2006 in which dozens died, with Danish embassies attacked, including the one in Damascus which was burned down.

The cartoons were reprinted in 2012 by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, three years before a massacre at its Paris office left 12 people dead.

Attacks

A total of 17 people were murdered across three days in a series of attacks that horrified France. All three assailants were killed in shootouts with the police, leaving only accomplices to face trial.

Death threats against Westergaard personally eventually forced him into hiding. In 2008 Denmark’s three main newspapers reprinted the cartoon after the arrest of three men for plotting to murder the artist. One was released without charge, another deported and a third sent to an asylum centre.

In early 2010, Danish police caught a 28-year-old Somalian armed with a knife and axe in Westergaard’s house, where he was planning to kill him.

Westergaard had been working at Jyllands-Posten since the mid-1980s as an illustrator and, according to Berlingske, the drawing in question had been printed once before but without sparking much controversy.

During the last years of his life Westergaard, like a number of others associated with the cartoons, had to live under police protection at a secret address.

– Guardian/AFP