Local/State

Swedish cartoonist visits Philadelphia under tight security

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lars Vilks, the maverick Swedish artist, has been under death threats for 3 years.

He is the target of a fatwah and accused of blasphemy by Islamic-extremists for his series of drawings depicting the prophet Muhammad as a dog.

"I'm worth $150,000, that's what you can get for me," Vilks said, talking about the bounty on his head.

Colleen Larose, aka Jihad Jane, from Montgomery County is one of 8 people under arrest over an alleged international plot to assassinate Vilks.

Vilks' free press appearance scheduled at the Union League was cancelled over security concerns.

Action News was asked not to disclose Vilks' whereabouts in Philadelphia.

He was guarded by federal and local security agents during his North American tour.

Vilks says he is an artist entitled to create freely without fear and fundamentalist Islam should get over it.

"The nature of art is transgression and provocation; you have to question what you already have, so if you're into art, this could be the outcome and you have to accept it," Vilks said.

From what is described as America's premiere Muslim advocacy group, CAIR Pennsylvania, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the word is tolerance of the unrepentant Lars Vilks.

"Obviously, the picture was distasteful, but he has the right to do that. His life should not be threatened, I'm sorry that it is," CAIR's local director Moein Khawaja said.

Khawaja says al-Quaeda does more overall harm than Vilks' sketch.

"They are supposed defense of the prophet Muhammad, they smear his name more than any cartoon could ever do," Khawaja said.

"It can't get worse, I have the death threats, if I made 20 more [cartoons], it wouldn't change anything," Vilks said.

Lars Vilks expects to be back in Philadelphia this spring. He is being called as a key witness at Jihad Jane's trial, which is now set to begin May 2nd.

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