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Cartoonist Lars Vilks
The cartoon by Lars Vilks depicts the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dogImage: AP

Muhammad cartoon

March 11, 2010

Several of Sweden's top newspapers republished a political cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday, a day after seven people were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to murder the cartoonist.


Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks first drew a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog three years ago. Since then, he has become the target of repeated death threats.

On Wednesday, several of Sweden's leading newspapers republished the political cartoon, a day after an alleged plot to murder the cartoonist was uncovered.

Deutsche Welle spoke to Thomas Mattsson, editor in chief at the Stockholm tabloid Expressen, about his decision to reprint the cartoon.

Deutsche Welle: Why did you decide to print this cartoon?

Thomas Mattsson: This cartoon has been published in several newspapers in Sweden before. Expressen has never published it, but we did so today given the fact that seven people were arrested yesterday on conspiracy of murder of the artist, Lars Vilks.

We wanted to show this cartoon for our readers, but not in an offensive way. It's not published on the front page - it's a two-column drawing, so it's pretty small - but it's identifiable and you can look at it and make up your own mind.

It's very important for us to take a stand on the issue of freedom of expression. It's legal to do this drawing, and it's legal to publish it, and people should not be threatened with their lives for doing so.

But some people, specifically Muslims, feel it's being done simply to offend them.

We are obviously aware that people find this offensive, but it's very important that we don't use self-censorship to stop drawings which might offend people but which we are actually allowed to publish.

How have your readers been responding?

We had a very positive response today. You also need to put this into context. A Swedish journalist has been imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001 because he was writing stories in a local newspaper about democracy. This man, Dawit Isaac, has never been put on trial and he's the only Swedish person adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

And there's been a huge debate in Sweden about [people like] Roberto Saviano and Salman Rushdie. There is a big debate in Sweden about freedom of speech.

And how is the Swedish government reacting? Are they supporting you?

We've had no contact whatsoever regarding this. You have to remember, though, that a couple years ago when this drawing was first made, the minister of justice had to resign, because it was revealed that she was acting in order to stop publication of this drawing.

Interview: Rick Demarest
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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