Exclusive: Copenhagen attacks 'will not scare me', cartoonist Vilks says

Bjorn Lindgren, TT News Agency, AFP | Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who believes he was the main target of Saturday’s terror attack on a free speech event in Copenhagen, on Sunday told FRANCE 24 that terrorists “must realise their project is meaningless”.


“I’m not going to let this attack scare me. I’m going to continue just like I always have,” he said.

The 68-year-old artist said he is convinced he was the main target of Saturday’s shooting in the Danish capital when a gunman opened fire at a freedom of speech event, killing one civilian and injuring three police officers. The suspect later attacked a Copenhagen synagogue, killing a security guard and injuring two policemen. He was shot dead by police early Sunday.

“To be honest I don’t really see any other candidates (for the attack at the event). I’m living with a very high level of threats against my life, so it makes sense that I was the one (being targeted),” he told FRANCE 24.

After depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a dog in 2007, Vilks has faced numerous death threats and several attempts on his life. In 2010, two brothers were convicted of arson after trying to burn down the artist’s house in southern Sweden, and in 2014, an American woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill him.

According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Mohammed is considered blasphemous.

Vilks, who was one of the key speakers at the event which was set to cover the impact on free speech following the January attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, said he had not yet started speaking when he heard “multiple gunshots” coming from the venue’s entrance.

“It was surreal. At first I didn’t know what was going on.”

Security guards then whisked Vilks away and hid him in a storage room together with the chairwoman of the committee hosting the panel debate.

“It was really dramatic. We had to stay there for maybe 30 minutes,” he said. “I wasn’t that scared though, we were surrounded by police with their weapons pulled.”

Vilks said that although he has felt that security around him has been increasingly tightened following the Paris attacks, he has no intention of relenting in his promotion of freedom of expression.

“Considering they (the terrorists) only understand the language of weapons, it’s kind of useless to try to talk with them about the freedom of expression. The only thing left to do is to make them realise that their project is meaningless and carry on the way we do,” Vilks said.

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