Al Qaeda Threatens Swedish Paper Over Mohammed Caricature

By: E&P Staff

A Swedish newspaper is under death threats from Islamic extremists after publishing a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is offering a bounty for the murders of artist Lars Vilke and Ulf Johansson, editor in chief of the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda — which published a cartoon depicting the founder of Islam as a dog. Islam forbids depictions of Mohammed, and in many Muslim areas, it is a grave insult to liken anyone to a dog.

Johansson published the drawing to accompany an Aug. 18 editorial expressing dismay that several art galleries had refused to show Vilke’s drawing, and to emphasize the right to free expression, according to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

“Art galleries let themselves be frightened by a diffuse threat,” Johansson wrote in the editorial. “This sends a signal that it is easy to silence people through scaring them.”

“While appreciating that the publication of the drawing may have caused offence to many Muslims, WAN emphasizes that the Nerikes Allehanda enjoys full freedom of expression and that a choice to publish the drawing falls within that right and should be duly respected,” the Paris-based WAN said.

WAN said it is heartened to see that the newspaper has strong support among the Swedish publishing industry.

The publication was also officially condemned by the governments Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Jordan, according to a sourced entry in Wikipedia.

The controversy recalls the furor — and frequent death threats — that followed publication of a series of imagined images of Mohammed in the Denmark newspaper Jyllands-Posten in Sept. 2005. At least 200 people were killed in demonstrations or sectarian violence sparked by protests over the cartoons. A Roman Catholic priest was murdered in Turkey by a Muslim who said he was influenced by the publication of the cartoons.

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