Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, famous for drawing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad who sparked violent riots in several Muslim countries in 2005, has died at the age of 86, his family announced on Sunday (July 18th). The cartoonist died in his sleep after a long illness, his family told the Danish newspaper Berlingske.
The illustrator is behind the most famous of the twelve cartoons published on September 30, 2005 by the Danish conservative daily Jyllands-Posten under the title “The face of Muhammad”. His drawing showed the prophet with a turban shaped like a bomb.
The cartoons went unnoticed at first, but two weeks later a demonstration took place in Copenhagen, before ambassadors from Muslim countries in Denmark protested. Anger then escalated with anti-Danish violence in the Muslim world in February 2006, seen in Denmark as the most serious foreign policy crisis for the country since World War II.
Several assassination attempts
The violence linked to the cartoons culminated in January 2015 with the attack that killed 12 French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which reprinted the cartoons in 2012.
Kurt Westergaard worked at Jyllands-Posten since the mid-1980s as an illustrator, and according to Berlingske, the design in question had already been printed once before, without causing much controversy.
During the last years of his life, Kurt Westergaard, like a number of others associated with the cartoons, had to live under police protection at a secret address. He was the target of several assassination attempts. 1is January 2010, a 28-year-old Somali man, armed with a knife and an ax, managed to enter his home in Aarhus. The cartoonist, who looked after his 5-year-old granddaughter, has barely had time to take refuge in his bathroom, which has been converted into a secure room. Despite the threats, he had never regretted his drawing and continued to defend its publication.