Artist: ‘We needed a hot potato’
Artist Lars Vilks has spoken out about the controversy surrounding the publication of his picture of Muhammad as a dog in local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda.
Speaking to news agency TT, Vilks said that a provocation was necessary to create a debate.
“We must be free to criticize religions. Why should Islam be exempted from the sort of criticism that is commonplace for Judaism and Christianity?” he said.
Vilks added that “hot potato” was needed to force a proper discussion.
“A lot of people think we should have a nice debate, but when it comes down to it nobody is interested. An initiative of sorts is needed to bring matters to a head,” he said.
The artist added that his intention had been to launch a discussion on principles rather than Islam, said Vilks, something which he still felt was not out of the question.
“Of course this is coming from a secular perspective, but that too is a perspective that needs to have its voice heard,” he said.
Aside from criticizing religion, the artist indicated that he was interested in exploring the limits of freedom of speech.
“Where should they be drawn? A lot of people say that freedom of speech shouldn’t be exploited in all contexts, that one should be careful and exercise moral responsibility.
“There has to be discussion about where these limits should be set, and I don’t think they’ve been exceeded here,” he said.
Vilks said he had observed how Muslims were treated with greater care than other religious groups. It was with this in mind that he composed the drawing ‘Modern Jewish sow, swollen by capitalism’, a drawing he published on his own website as a response to a rhetorical question from a Swedish journalist.
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The artist concluded with a challenge to Sweden’s Muslim community.
“Above all this is about how Swedish Muslims handle this, whether they are ready to step forward as representatives of democracy,” he added.
Well, how are Swedish Muslims handling this?
So far they seem angry and offended, what with the demonstrations and the death threats. But the latest demonstration is being called off — Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s little field trip to the mosque seems to have paid off:
Swedish Muslims said Wednesday they had called off a planned demonstration against a newspaper cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad as a dog, following talks with the prime minister.
“There is no reason anymore to demonstrate again,” the head of the Muslim cultural centre at Örebro, Jamal Lahamdi, who had organized two earlier protests, told AFP.
The next protest had been planned for Friday.
“The dialogue is good. The talks organized by the prime minister yesterday are a very good step,” he added.
“I hope the crisis is over now. All the people here were involved, talked a lot.”
A lot of talk doesn’t usually satisfy angry Muslims. Is this a hudna? Are Sweden’s Muslim’s buying time until they can regroup and mount something bigger?
Normally, nothing short of an abject apology — accompanied by financial subsidies — will suffice.
We’ll have to wait and see.
Hat tip: CG.
For previous posts on Lars Vilks and the Roundabout Dogs, see the Modoggie Archives.