Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Was True Target of Foiled Terrorist Attack at Swedish Art Biennial

Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Was True Target of Foiled Terrorist Attack at Swedish Art Biennial
Malaysian activists protest in front of Sweden's embassy in Kuala Lumpur
(Courtesy of AFP Images)

The suspected terrorist plot that Swedish police foiled in the early hours of this past September 11 seems to have actually been a conspiracy to murder provocative artist and cartoonist Lars Vilks, whose drawing of Muhammad as a dog sparked controversy in 2007. One of the four men arrested on that day has been released, while the other three have been charged with conspiring to commit murder rather than plotting terrorist acts.

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As ARTINFO previously reported, Swedish police evacuated about 400 people from the Röda Sten Art Center during the opening festivities for the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art due to a "serious threat." Lars Vilks had indicated on his blog that he planned to attend the biennial, and some speculated that he could have been the reason for the planned attack. Vilks did not end up going to the biennial.

One of the men arrested had purchased a pocketknife, and another asked for Vilks at the opening, the Swedish newspaper Metro reports, citing classified documents that it obtained from the prosecutor's office, which declined to confirm these reports. According to the Telegraph, Vilks told Swedish news agency TT that he has not been contacted by the authorities regarding his connection to the case. "I heard that information on TV this morning," he said. "I have not received that information personally."

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In 2007, for a show on "The Dog in Art," Vilks made three pen-and-ink drawings of Muhammad as a roundabout dog (homemade street installations of dogs that have recently become a popular phenomenon in Sweden). The organizers decided not to show the pieces, and other galleries also declined. A month later, Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published one of the drawings, setting off deadly protests by Muslims in Sweden and around the world.

The episode recalls the Danish Muhammad cartoon scandal of 2005. Following the publication of several cartoons of the prophet in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Danish embassies in several Muslim countries were bombed or set on fire. A suicide bombing in Stockholm in 2010 — the first in Sweden — was partially motivated by anger over Vilks's cartoons, according to an email received by Swedish Security 10 minutes before the blast.