Death threats ““ it’s something you get used to. Interview with Swedish Muhammed cartoonist Lars Vilks

Translated by Nicolai Sennels from the Danish Free Speech Society’s internet magazine sappho.dk, March 14th 2012. “Death threats — it’s something you get used to“:

Lars Vilks, Sappho interview March 2012.jpgHe is on al-Qaeda’s death list and in his garden the Swedish security police is keeping watch around the clock. Despite all this, the Swedish artist Lars Vilks accepts his destiny with equanimity. Sappho.dk has visited the man who refused to go underground.

It is Friday afternoon in early March. The sun shines and the car glides slowly through the flat countryside of Skåne in southern Sweden.

I am going to visit Lars Vilks. The man who enraged Muslims because he drew a picture of their prophet as a dog.

I have a lot to ask him. What is it like to be on al-Qaeda’s hit list and have a security detail in your garden? Has he had any regrets after publishing his drawings in 2007?

“Lars Vilks, Artist”

But first I need to find him. And that is surprisingly easy.

The Swedish Yellow Pages make no attempt to hide his address: “Lars Vilks, Artist” it says loud and clear, followed by city, street name and number. If you want the GPS coordinates, you can also get them.

So I am now driving along Brunnbyvägen outside Nyhamnsläge — a tiny village north of Helsingborg.

Neighbors are far between and besides empty fields there is little to see. It is difficult to understand why al-Qaeda has marked this place on their maps.

On the right-hand side of the road an isolated house comes into view. I turn into a small dirt road that leads up to the house.

The guards in the garden

As soon as I leave the paved road, I spot him — a big security guard in uniform who is writing down my license plate number. A camper is parked behind him. That is where the guard and his colleagues sleep and eat. For they protect Vilks around the clock.

The camper and its permanent occupants are the Swedish government’s response to the growing threats against the controversial man from SkÃ¥ne.

I get out of the car, say hello to the guard and hear footsteps behind me. To my astonishment, a huge, silver-gray Saab is suddenly parked behind my car. I have no idea where it came from. I neither saw nor heard it coming.

The two men in the car turn out to be from the Swedish security police, Säpo.

They are friendly and obliging and ask to see my ID. They also ask for details about my appointment. How long do I expect it will take? Have I met Lars before? Etc.

A familiar face?

My answers appear satisfactory and one of the men tells me to follow him. We wade through what can best be described as a puddle and reach a ramshackle house.

The Säpo officer walks up a flight of stairs leading to the front door. He knocks, and after a brief moment, Lars Vilks appears.

He is wearing blue jeans, a sweater and heavy black sunglasses. His gray hair sticks out in all directions and looks like something that has long been in need of a comb. Other than that the 65-year-old artist looks healthy and agile.

“Is that a familiar face?” asks the Säpo officer and points at me.

“It certainly is,” answers Vilks and invites me inside.

Home and workshop

On closer inspection of Vilks’ house, it turns out that he fully lives up to the image of the eccentric artist living happily in the midst of chaos and rarely tidying up. In addition to that he is a bachelor.

As a result the small house is crammed with books, drawings and paintings. Books lie in heaps on the floor and are stacked in bookshelves along the walls. Not to mention brushes and tubes of paint in all colors. I understand that the house serves as both home and workshop.

It is in this room under the low-hanging crystal chandelier with its crooked lampshades that Vilks produces his traffic circle dogs — the very drawings of the Prophet that radically changed his life.

I bend down to take off my muddy boots.

“There’s no need,” says Vilks. “It’s not very clean here.”

So I find a vacant corner in the living room’s well-worn sofa. Vilks sits down on a kitchen chair and declares himself ready to be interviewed.

Welcome to my creation!

Actually, it should not surprise me now that I’ve read a bit about Vilks’ concept of art.

Still I am a bit surprised when halfway through our conversation he points out that I am now an official part of his artistic creation, i.e. his drawing of the prophet dog that got the ball rolling.

The drawing is only a small part of his gesamtkunstwerk, he explains.

All those who have responded to the drawing are also included. And now I am sitting here and interviewing him about it. Consequently, I have become a part of his work just like those who have tried to kill him and the security guards outside. We are all in the same boat — we are all a part of Vilks’ work.

Art for freedom

It sounds as if you planned it all from the start. Did you anticipate this development?

“No, absolutely not,” laughs Vilks. “Coincidences have played a role.”

“Many have made such drawings before me — without creating much of a stir. My drawing was not even intended for publication in a newspaper. I really thought that it could be kept within the safe environment of the art world.”

Are you proud of your creation?

“I won’t say that I’m proud. But I think it’s an interesting work. With very few artistic effects I’ve managed to create a piece of art that expresses the essence of multiculturalism versus free speech. Through my art I have always worked for greater freedom — including freedom of expression — so I am very pleased.”

Had to flee from Tensta

Since the publication of his drawings back in 2007, threats against him have multiplied. He has been physically attacked during lectures and two Muslim immigrants have tried to kill him by setting fire to his house.

Not to mention a number of people arrested by the security service before they could implement their assassination plans.

The latest episode took place on March 1st 2012, when Vilks was to attend a lecture. The event took place in the art hall in Tensta — a suburb of Stockholm with many immigrants. It only took moments before Lars Vilks was recognized.

Several times a bunch of angry young men entered the art hall in an attempt to get hold of him. More young men flocked outside. Eventually Vilks’ security guards evacuated him.

Stockholm bomber was the last straw

But is was back in 2010 that the Intelligence Service took the decision to provide their compatriot with guards around the clock. It was just after a suicide bomber had blown himself up in central Stockholm.

The bomber left a recorded threat to the Swedish people mentioning Lars Vilks.

Two additional episodes had made the threat against Vilks very clear.

In a speech the Iranian President had expressed his desire to see Vilks sent off to a place of no return and al-Qaeda in Iraq had issued fatwa promising a reward of $ 150,000 to whoever would slit the Swede’s throat.

This made the Intelligence Service respond.

All will be well

What is it like to live with death threats and security guards round the clock?

“The threats are of course a relatively new experience. But you can actually learn to live with them. Those who threaten rarely make good on their threats.”

“Besides, I’m quite optimistic by nature. I believe that all will be well if you keep your cool and think strategically. However, it is clear that some practical things have become more difficult. It’s hard to improvise with security guards in tow, so things must be planned in advance.”

Do you regret that you ever put pen to paper?

“No, I have no regrets. One shouldn’t think like that. As an artist one must accept the consequences of one’s actions. History is full of artists whose fate was far worse than mine.”

Refused to go underground

But the security situation is not only cumbersome for Vilks, it is also costly for the Swedish state, which was why the Security Service had preferred a different solution.

“They wanted me to change identity and go underground. But I didn’t find that realistic. As an artist and lecturer I cannot be anonymous. It would be too high a price to pay.
“In the beginning I had a hide-away, where I could stay nights. But that became too unpractical, so now I sleep here, surrounded by alarms and all kinds of electronic hardware.”

The alarm systems that Säpo has installed are not quite infallible, says Vilks. Now and again they are triggered because some cat or other animal has entered the premises.

Artist with an axe

Clearly Lars Vilks is not the type that would overdramatize his situation. But when the alarm goes off and he lies asleep on the first floor, he admits that thoughts go through his head. “One cannot help speculating if one should go downstairs to see what’s up,” he says with a grin.

To make the decision a little easier, he always has a big axe by his side — even as we sit here talking.

“It has a good swing,” he says, and demonstrates how it is done.”

Good news and bad news

What do you think your life will look like in five years?

“It’s hard to say but I do not think they will manage to kill me. Today, terrorism is based largely on amateurs. When they tried to burn down my house, they set fire to themselves, etc. On the other hand they have become less predictable,” says Vilks and look out the window.

“You could say that there is good news and bad news about the future.”

Art goes on

In any case, he intends to go on expanding his creation.

He proved that the other day, when his lecture at the University of Karlstad was interrupted. A group of Muslim men started shouting threats and throwing eggs.

One of the eggs survived the flight and Vilks took it home as a souvenir and wants to show it to me.

“Here it is,” he shouts from his small kitchen. A moment later he produces it. It has been emptied of content and been embellished with a fine little drawing of Muhammad.

You continue where you left off?

“Yes.”

The interview is drawing to a close because a journalism student from Gothenburg has announced his arrival. He would also like to learn more about the world according to Vilks. For now, however, it is the student that is being questioned by the guards outside. Has he met Vilks before? How long does he expect the interview will take?

The young man probably does not know yet. But he has already become a part of Vilks’ work.”

Get your copy of Lars Vilks’ world famous picture “¨of Muhammad in the traffic circle — and support Lars Vilks and free speech.

The Free Press Society has printed a limited edition of 1000 signed and numbered by the artist. See it here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hey, all you rubes out there in the Western media (yeah, you know who you are), what are you going to say about this? That Christians make the same threats? That Buddhists do? That Hindus do? That Jews do? That poverty causes such threats? That we have to be tolerant of intolerance? That Islam is misunderstood? That the “Third World” should be granted indulgences because of such enormous errors as that great whipping boy, Western imperalism? Yeah, just how far will you go, you turkeys out there in the Western media, in your continuing exculpation of Islam?

    Do you have any idea how foolish and complicit with evil you guys are? No, I don’t think you do. Shame on most all of you. Forever.

    Remember, Bertrand Russell (himself an atheist) said that Islam was the only major religion which is totalitarian in structure and ideology, and he compared it to Marxism and fascism. And Winston Churchill said of Islam that it is “the greatest retrograde force in the world.” Churchill also compared Mein Kampf to the Koran. And so do you media types really think you’re smarter, more knowledgeable and wiser about Islam than Russell and Churchill? Really? Are you that clueless and arrogant at the same time? Perhaps. If so, and I think it so, you are as much of an obstacle to liberty as is the Islamic faith. Quite a legacy you’re building for yourselves. Oh yeah.

  2. says

    The Swedish “elite” are still in a state of denial, despite the reality that is presented to them on a daily basis … “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”

  3. says

    I’ve never heard that said of Churchill before, that he compared Mein Kampf to the koran.
    It’s good to see it in black and white.
    Perhaps that accounts for Churchill’s rabid despise of Hitler.

    I’ve often thought this to myself, but I’ve never seen it in print, the first duty of government is to protect its citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
    No citizen of Sweden, or the U.S., should have to live in fear of immigrants, legal or otherwise.
    If the cost of immigration is that it’s citizens must live in fear, then the price is too high, Sweden should say ” All muslims – OUT “.

  4. says

    Death threats – it’s something you get used to. Interview with Swedish Muhammed cartoonist Lars Vilks
    ……………………………

    *No one* should have to “get used to” this barbarity. Also, if violent Muslims like “Jihad Jane” have her way, Lars Vilks won’t be able to get used to death threats”he’ll merely be the victim of them.

    More:

    Translated by Nicolai Sennels…
    ……………………………

    Thank you, Mr. Sennels.

    More:

    Lars Vilks, Sappho interview March 2012.jpgHe is on al-Qaeda’s death list and in his garden the Swedish security police is keeping watch around the clock. Despite all this, the Swedish artist Lars Vilks accepts his destiny with equanimity. Sappho.dk has visited the man who refused to go underground.
    ……………………………

    What a brave man.

    More:

    As soon as I leave the paved road, I spot him – a big security guard in uniform who is writing down my license plate number. A camper is parked behind him. That is where the guard and his colleagues sleep and eat. For they protect Vilks around the clock.
    ……………………………

    How many people have to live like this? Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders; former Dutch parliamentarian and now American resident Ayaan Hirsi Ali”and now, presumably, her husband Niall Ferguson and their new child, as well; Salman Rushdie, who has had to live like this for *over twenty years now*, and our own Robert Spencer, as well.

    At least Sweden has *actually provided security*. The Netherlands balked at protecting Ali, and American cartoonist Molly Norris was simply told by the FBI that they couldn’t guarantee her safety and recommended that she change her name and go into hiding, which she did out of necessity. I have no idea how she is doing today. I believe French scholar Robert Redeker has had to go into hiding, as well.

    Theo van Gogh scoffed at the idea of needing security, and the poor man wound up on an Amsterdam street with a slit throat and a knife in his chest.

    More:

    Art for freedom

    It sounds as if you planned it all from the start. Did you anticipate this development?

    “No, absolutely not,” laughs Vilks. “Coincidences have played a role.”

    “Many have made such drawings before me – without creating much of a stir.
    ……………………………

    This is an important point.

    Blogger Dag Walker posted a painting by an artist here on JW for “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day” a couple of years ago
    that is *much* harsher and more explicit in its criticism of the “Prophet” Muhammed than are Lars Vilks’ funny MoDoggies, or even the Danish MoToons, and yet it has received little attention. It features a monstrous Muhammed surrounded by the bones of his victims and a sobbing 9-year-old Aisha who is bleeding from the crotch. (My apologies”I tried to track the piece down again, and have been unable to find it)

    The point is that murderous Muslim attention is *so random*. If I were to post my Anti-Jihad work under my own name, I might get no response at all. Or I might face a deluge of death threats and find some members of the Ummah armed with axes climbing through my bedroom window some dark night.

    The very randomness is itself a weapon, because many critics of Islam will simply *censor themselves* out of fear.

    More:

    Since the publication of his drawings back in 2007, threats against him have multiplied. He has been physically attacked during lectures and two Muslim immigrants have tried to kill him by setting fire to his house.

    Not to mention a number of people arrested by the security service before they could implement their assassination plans.

    The latest episode took place on March 1st 2012, when Vilks was to attend a lecture. The event took place in the art hall in Tensta – a suburb of Stockholm with many immigrants. It only took moments before Lars Vilks was recognized.

    Several times a bunch of angry young men entered the art hall in an attempt to get hold of him. More young men flocked outside. Eventually Vilks’ security guards evacuated him.

    But is was back in 2010 that the Intelligence Service took the decision to provide their compatriot with guards around the clock. It was just after a suicide bomber had blown himself up in central Stockholm.

    The bomber left a recorded threat to the Swedish people mentioning Lars Vilks…
    ……………………………

    And the threats just don’t stop. Five years is not long enough for touchy, homicidal Muslims to forget. But then, twenty-plus years haven’t been enough in the case of author Salman Rushdie.

    More:

    But the security situation is not only cumbersome for Vilks, it is also costly for the Swedish state…
    ……………………………

    Yes, it is. How many writers and artists and critics of Islam can the West afford to protect in this manner? Of course, letting pious Muslims wantonly murder their critics is a far worse option.

    This reminds me of Hugh Fitzgerald’s frequent remarks about how the presence of Muslims in the West makes life for the native Infidels “far more unpleasant, dangerous, and expensive than they would otherwise be”.

    The entire range of this phenomenon is on display with the case of Lars Vilks.

  5. says

    The spirit of mankind is greater than the barbarity of mankind.
    Lars has said that he is now used to living with death threats because he knows deep down that death can never really hurt him. He knows that the tyrants and the thugs will never really win against the forces of freedom. This is why Islam will eventually die.
    Yes, Islam may triumph in the short run and Islam may cause a lot of suffering, but the Devil’s glory will be short-lived. Islam is destined for the trash can of history. How soon that happens depends on what we do to fight it. It is up to us to determine how short the battle is, but Islam is ultimately destined to lose. Lies will never, ever win in any war against the truth!

  6. says

    “No, I have no regrets. One shouldn’t think like that. As an artist one must accept the consequences of one’s actions. History is full of artists whose fate was far worse than mine.”

    This is how a free man lives!

  7. says

    Mein Koramph indeed.

    I am really trying to sympathize with the swedes. But they as a society are so steeped in policital correctness that they very well may not be able to stem the tide of izlumic destruction of their country. I wish I could remember exactly where I read this quote from a female politician or academic but I remeber the quote very clearly (regarding muzlum immigration to Sweden) “We must be kind to them (muzlums) because when they are the majority we will want them to be kind to us”

    This makes me want to puke….

  8. says

    *I* like the axe.

    From the article:

    “Clearly Lars Vilks is not the type that would overdramatize his situation.

    “But when the alarm goes off and he lies asleep on the first floor, he admits that thoughts go through his head. “One cannot help speculating if one should go downstairs to see what’s up,” he says with a grin.

    **To make the decision a little easier, he always has a big axe by his side – even as we sit here talking.

    “It has a good swing,” he says, and demonstrates how it is done.”** {my emphasis – dda}.

    Sounds as though he keeps himself in trim chopping firewood.

    I wonder whether he gives axe-wielding lessons to his security guards?

    I have a picture in my head.

    Evil Mohammedan would-be assassin clutching a butcher’s knife sneaks into Lars Vilks’ domain, trips wire, alarm goes off; evil Mohammedan then slips on assorted untidiness littered about and falls.

    As he starts to get up, a shadowy figure in PJs and stocking feet looms silently over him.

    Swiiiisssh! WHACK. THUD. And the Mohammedan in his last moments of terror discovers that underneath the buttery surface of Sweden is the granitic bedrock of their Norse ancestors.

    And after a little while, and after a public inquiry has discovered that Mr Vilks acted in self-defence, and the body has been identified as that of an illegal immigrant and a bloodcurdling ‘martyrdom video’ discovered, a pickled, dried Mohammedan head appears on a stake somewhere on the perimeter of Lars’ property; yet another element in the unfolding artwork…

  9. says

    Back in 2010, after Vilks was attacked by Muslims in Uppsala, Sweden, at a lecture (and after his home was targeted in an arson attack by Muslims), he did not blame Muslims in general. According to the report at the time relayed here at Jihad Watch:

    Vilks was keen to stress that the incident in Uppsala did not involve people representative of the group often generally referred to as “Muslims”.

    “It is a question of a small clique who should not be given the opportunity to grow,” Vilks said.

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/06/motoonist-lars-vilks-on-facebook-i-have-joined-the-group-kill-lars-vilks.html

    Man. When even Vilks himself, for God’s sake, promotes the TMOE/SMOE meme (Tiny/Small Minority of Extremists) in explicit contrast to Muslims in general, is it any wonder the West at large remains incompetent and impotent in the face of a metastasizing problem of Mohammedans?

  10. says

    Lars. .personally I’d recommed a hatchet – there are some great ones out there nowdays with ergonomic, non-slip handles – rather than the axe. Although the axe’s handle can be employed as a jabbing bar, it’s unwieldy in close-quarter combat. .and a hatchet can be thrown at an assailant to great effect, even if the point don’t stick like a pro tomahawk-thrower would have it do.

  11. says

    “Remember, Bertrand Russell (himself an atheist) said that Islam was the only major religion which is totalitarian in structure and ideology, and he compared it to Marxism and fascism.”

    You are quite right Wellington.

    In “The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism” (1920), Russell wrote:

    “Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam. … Marx has taught that Communism is fatally predestined to come about; this produces a state of mind not unlike that of the early successors of Mahommet….Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.”

    Russell also emphazised the logical independence of moral values from any theistic system. He formulated his insight in this manner:

    “If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.

    If you are going to say, as theologicans do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that He made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God.”

    Do you think Russell is right in his argument?

  12. says

    The now notorious remark, widely quoted, was made by Jens Olov Orback (born 21 April 1959 in Stockholm) – a Swedish Social Democratic politician. He was Minister for Democracy, Metropolitan Affairs, Integration and Gender Equality in the Ministry of Justice in the Cabinet of Göran Persson (2004–2006).

    In 2004, in connection with a meeting among Immigration Ministers in the Netherlands, he stated that “We must be open and generous to Islam and Muslims so that when we (Swedes) are the minority, they will do the same to us.”

    Here some other memorable quotes from leading Swedish politicians:

    “Jag tror det är lite det som gör mÃ¥nga svenskar sÃ¥ avundsjuka pÃ¥ invandrargrupper. Ni har en kultur, en identitet, en historia, nÃ¥gonting som binder ihop er. Och vad har vi? Vi har midsommarafton och sÃ¥dana töntiga saker.”

    (I think it’s a bit what makes many Swedes so envious of immigrant groups. You have a culture, an identity, a history, something that binds you together. And what do we have? We have Midsummer celebration and such geeky things).

    (Mona Sahlin, Euroturk, marts 2002).

    “Ursvenskt är bara barbariet. Resten av utvecklingen har kommit utifrÃ¥n.”

    (Primeval Swedish is just savagery. The rest of the development has come from outside).

    (John Fredrik Reinfeldt in Ronna, Södertälje, DN, 15th November 2006).

    “Det var faktiskt inte vi svenskar som byggde Sverige. Det var människor utifrÃ¥n.”

    (It was actually not us Swedes, who built Sweden. It was people from outside).

    Maud Olofsson, leader of the Center Party, October 2007).

    – – –

    No wonder the self-hating Swedes are handing their country over to the Muslim master race.

  13. says

    That should read. .’recommend’ ,of course.
    And I’ll add my thanks to Nicolai for the interview and translation, and to Lars for his courage and integrity.