Kurt Westergaard, Danish Illustrator Behind Muhammad Cartoon That Sparked Deadly Violence Worldwide, Dies At 86

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Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist whose caricature of Muhammad, considered by Muslims as their last prophet, that sparked periodic protests and acts of deadly violence worldwide, has died at the age of 86.

In Jan. 2010, Westergaard narrowly escaped an attack by a Somali man armed with an axe at his home in Aarhus.

Westergaard continued to maintain that he had no regrets about his drawing. He said the cartoon had generated "important" discussion about the place of Islam in Western countries with secular values.

Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist whose caricature of Muhammad, considered by Muslims as their last prophet, that sparked periodic protests and acts of deadly violence worldwide, has died at the age of 86, his family told Danish publication Berlingske on Sunday(Jul 18).

Westergaard passed away in his sleep after a prolonged period of ill health.

Westergaard was behind the 12 cartoons published by the newspaper to make a point about self-censorship and criticism of Islam. One of the cartoons showed Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.

The cartoons were first published in Sep 2005 by conservative daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten under the headline "The Face of Mohammed". Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous and the caricatures as a grave insult to their religion

The cartoons went almost unnoticed initially, but after two weeks, a demonstration against them was held in Copenhagen, and then ambassadors from Muslim countries in Denmark lodged a protest.

In Feb 2006, many Danish diplomatic missions in the Muslim world were attacked by angry protestors. More than 50 people are killed as police try to quell protests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

In Feb 2008, Danish police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent for planning to kill Westergaard.

In Jan. 2010, Westergaard narrowly escaped an attack by a Somali man armed with an axe at his home in Aarhus. During the last years of his life Westergaard, like a number of others associated with the cartoons, had to live under police protection at a secret address.

Westergaard continued to maintain that he had no regrets about his drawing. He said the cartoon had generated "important" discussion about the place of Islam in Western countries with secular values.

In Jan 2015, 12 people including some of France's most celebrated cartoonists were killed in an attack on the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamic terrorists. The magazine had reprinted the cartoons in 2012.

As they fled the office, the terrorists were heard shouting 'We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have taken revenge for the sake of the Prophet Mohammed.'

Among those who were massacred in the gun attack were the weekly’s editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier, cartoonists Cabut, Bernard Verlhac, Georges Wolinski and Philippe Honore, economist Bernard Maris, columnist Elsa Cayat, Charb's bodyguard Franck Brinsolaro, visitor Michel Renaud and proof-reader Mustapha Ourrad.

In Sept. 2020, Charlie Hebdo re-published the cartoons on the eve of a trial of suspected accomplices in the 2015 attack on its offices.

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