By: Dave Astor
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) President-Elect Nick Anderson responded today to an al-Qaida leader’s offering of large bounties to kill a Swedish cartoonist and editor.
“It will come as a surprise to no one that al-Qaida opposes the concept of freedom of expression,” said the Houston Chronicle cartoonist, when contacted by E&P. “In the Western world, the appropriate response to offensive speech is more speech. But then, we wouldn’t be at war if al-Qaida embraced Western thinking.”
Anderson, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner, added: “My colleague, AAEC Vice President Ted Rall, quipped, ‘It’s about time someone was willing to pay real money for a cartoonist.'”
Rall also said wryly: “Anyone who doubts political cartoons are powerful should note that al-Qaida is trying to silence political cartoonists. Fire a cartoonist — refuse to hire a cartoonist — and the terrorists have won.”
The al-Qaida leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, offered up to $150,000 for the killing of cartoonist Lars Vilk and $50,000 for the killing of the editor of Nerikes Allehanda, the Swedish paper that printed Vilks’ cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body on Aug. 19.
Vilks told the Associated Press: “We have a real problem here. We can only hope that Muslims in Europe and in the Western world choose to distance themselves from this and support the idea of freedom of expression.”
Ulf Johansson, editor in chief of Nerikes Allehanda, said he took the bounty “more seriously” than other threats he had received. “This is more explicit. It’s not every day somebody puts a price on your head.”
Until the bounties were offered Saturday, reaction to Vilks’ cartoon had been somewhat muted compared to the protests that erupted after a Danish newspaper published Muhammad-related cartoons.
Anderson is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group, while Rall does his cartoons for Universal Press Syndicate.