Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who died yesterday at the age of 75 in a car accident with two police officers escorting him, rose to fame in 2007 for a controversial cartoon of Muhammad, a year after the controversy caused by the Danish newspaper ‘Jyllands-Posten’, which had generated a diplomatic crisis with the Islamic world.
Conservative-leaning ‘Jyllands-Posten’ published a dozen cartoons of the Prophet on its cover in September 2004, one of them with a bomb as a turban, which months later provoked attacks on Danish diplomatic legations in several countries and a boycott of products from this Nordic country.
Almost a year and a half later, a local Swedish newspaper, ‘Nerikes Allehanda’, published a drawing by Vilks to illustrate an editorial in which freedom of expression was defended and the refusal of two cultural centers was criticized. to authorize an exhibition with his works.
Both Vilks, who claimed to have received death threats, and the newspaper refused to apologize despite protests from the Muslim community in Sweden, but then-Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt hurried to meet with twenty ambassadors. Islamic countries with diplomatic representation in Stockholm to prevent the controversy from escalating.
One of the triggers for the crisis between Denmark and the Islamic world had been the refusal of his then-Danish counterpart, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to meet with the ambassadors of Arab countries represented in Copenhagen, considering that the interview could be interpreted as a form of intervention in the work of the media.
Vilks, who has since gone on to live in police custody, has been the target of several bombings, including a failed attempt to set fire to his home in Sweden, or a failed plot by US activists linked to the Al- Qaeda.
The Swedish artist was also the alleged target of the attack recorded on 14 February 2015 at a cultural center in Copenhagen where a debate on blasphemy and freedom of expression was being held.
The perpetrator, a young Dane of Palestinian descent, shot at those attending the event and killed a 55-year-old Danish filmmaker. Hours later he executed a young man guarding a synagogue, only to be shot later by police.
Vilks and his two companions died in a head-on collision with a truck, after their car invaded the opposite lane, in which the driver of this vehicle was seriously injured, on a highway on the outskirts of Markaryd (south ).
The causes of the accident have not yet been clarified and the explosion of a tire is hypothesized, police said.
“Nothing indicates that anyone else was involved in the accident,” Stefan Sintéus, in charge of the investigation, told a news conference on Monday.