The well-known Danish artist Kurt Westergaard died peacefully of natural causes on July 14, 2021, at 86.
Kurt Westergaard defined an era with his artwork. He became internationally known in 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published his now-iconic “Moe-toon” illustration of Islam’s founder, Mohammad, with a bomb as a turban. The artist and free speech hero showed the world how intolerant and dangerous Islam is to a liberal and free nation.
The reaction to Westergaard’s cartoon developed into Denmark’s most serious foreign policy situation since World War II and one of the most important free speech crises of our time. Until the day Westergaard passed away, he and his family had to live under a permanent threat of assassination and were guarded by the Danish state intelligence at a secret location where they lived in hiding.
Westergaard was a teacher and an illustrator for the Jyllands-Posten newspaper from the early 1980s. After a long illness, his family said he died in his sleep after suffering from an unknown illness. He leaves behind a wife, five children, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Westergaard was beloved by his colleagues, who rarely noticed that he often did not agree with his newspaper’s conservative-leaning reporting. He had at one point described himself as “a culturally radical half-hippie who advocates peace, space for all and good coexistence.”
Mr. Westergaard’s iconic illustration and brave fight for freedom of speech changed the world profoundly. Because of this, it is worth taking a proper look at Kurt Westergaard, his drawing, and the shocking events that transpired.
Background of the Muhammad Cartoon
In the summer of 2005, Danish artist Kåre Bluitgen could not find a cartoonist in Denmark who would depict Islam’s prophet for a set of children’s books on the major world religions. Bluitgen said that the three illustrators he contacted were too scared of the consequences of upsetting Muslims. A few months later, Bluitgen reported that he had found someone willing to illustrate his book, but only if they could remain anonymous.
It is not surprising that the artists feared for their safety. Under Islamic law, those who insult Muhammad or Allah are to be executed, as are those who desecrate the Quran or commit other acts of blasphemy.
According to Bluitgen, one artist declined due to the murder in Amsterdam of the film director Theo van Gogh the year before. Another artist cited the attack in October 2004 on a teacher at the Unversity of Copenhagen. The professor was attacked by five terrorists who were enraged that he read from the Qur’an to non-Muslims during a lecture.
Jyllands-Posten published an article about Bluitgen’s case to test whether Danish writers and illustrators impose censorship on themselves out of fear of Islam’s response. According to Gatestone, “To test the state of freedom of expression, Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten’s cultural editor at the time, called fifteen cartoonists and offered them $160 each to draw a caricature of Mohammed.” Three illustrators declined the offer, 12 drawings were submitted, three from newspaper employees and two did not directly show Muhammad.
The cartoons of Muhammad, as they were first published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. The headline, Muhammads ansigt, means “The face of Muhammad”:
Westergaard drew the cartoon depicting Muhammed with a bomb tucked inside his turban. His caricature had been published previously for a newspaper without causing any outrage. He has also drawn things that Christians and Jews found offensive, yet they never threatened to kill him, nor did they demand apologies.
Mr. Westergaard said that his cartoon “was an attempt to expose those fanatics who have justified a great number of bombings, murders and other atrocities with references to the sayings of their prophet. If many Muslims thought that their religion did not condone such acts, they might have stood up and declared that the men of violence had misrepresented the true meaning of Islam. But, unfortunately, very few of them did so.”
Imam’s in Denmark and Media Spread False Stories, Incite International Conflict
On October 14, 2005, following the release of the 12 cartoons, around 3,000 Muslims took to the streets of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, to protest the drawings of Muhammad. But, as Westergaard explained, the response to his cartoon did not turn explosive until December 2005, after a group of Danish Imams traveled to the Middle East.
The Imams, dissatisfied with the reaction of the Danish Government and Jyllands-Posten to their complaints, created a forty-three-page document called the Akkari-Laban dossier. The document entitled “Dossier about championing the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him” included the many different Muslim organization’s gripes and pains of living in “Islamophobic” Denmark.
On December 5, 2005, and December 17, 2005, a delegation of Imams flew to the Middle East to meet with high-ranking Muslim organizations, religious figures, terrorist groups, and politicians about the illustrations. The first delegation headed by terror-tired Imam Abu Bashar, who headed the Islamic Society in Denmark, went to Egypt. The second delegation, which Sheik Raeed Huleyhel headed, traveled to Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Sudan. Morocco, Algeria, and Qatar.
The Imams brought the cartoons of Muhammad published in Jyllands-Posten and their dossier. They also brought incendiary pictures slandering Islam which they claimed were sent to the Danish Islamic Society. The Imams needed to add more offensive cartoons to their dossier to help whip up anger against Denmark. In addition, the Imams wanted to illustrate to the Islamic world the atmosphere of Islamophobia in which they lived.
The images from the Danish Islamic Society included a pig photograph from an article in the Associated Press about a farmer’s festival in France. The person photographed was a farmer at the festival poking fun at himself. One of the other two additional images (a photo) portrayed a Muslim being mounted by a dog while praying, and the other (a cartoon) portrayed Muhammad as a demonic pedophile. Adding fuel to the fire, the BBC World and al-Jazeera incorrectly reported that the French pig-squealing picture had been published in Jyllands-Posten.
The Imams, along with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Arab League, the Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim Spiritual leaders, and many other Islamic terrorist groups, used the cartoons and the three anonymous pictures to inflame tensions throughout the Middle East. As a result, there was a massive and coordinated, international response against the paper, Westergaard, and anyone who dared to republish the illustrations.
At a December 6, 2005 summit of the OIC, the dossier was handed around to many heads of state in attendance. As a result, the OIC issued an official communiqué, demanding that the United Nations impose international sanctions upon Denmark.
Muslim clerics placed a price of 1 million dollars on Westergaard’s head. Several other bounties were announced, which totaled 11 million dollars for his death. Anwar al-Awlaki announced that Westergaard was added to Al-Qaeda’s hit list. Jyllands-Posten’s cultural editor Flemming Rose had an Islamic fatwa placed on his life. The Taliban offered a bounty to anyone who would kill him. Also, Rose’s name and face entered ISIS’s blacklist. Finally, Osama Bin Laden released a video threatening the European Union over news publications reprinting the cartoon.
For the next year, waves of Islamic violence erupted across the Middle East, Asia, Denmark, other parts of Europe, and Africa; more than 250 lives were lost. Any nation or news outlet that dared to publish the cartoons was violently and economically threatened or attacked. Danish products were removed from several Islamic countries, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Oman, the UAE, and Lebanon. Churches and Christians in Islamic countries were attacked and burned, as were many diplomatic offices of European countries. Armed masked Islamic terrorists stormed the offices of the European Union in Gaza and warned Danes and Norwegians to leave within 48 hours. In the Libyan city of Benghazi, eleven people were killed, and an Italian consulate was burned. To see a full list and timeline of the violent events that took place, see here.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League wrote a joint letter to the Danish Prime Minister expressing alarm about the cartoons. In addition, ambassadors from Muslim-majority countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Libya, Morocco, and the Head of the Palestinian General Delegation demanded action be taken against the paper and artists.
The OIC is an influential bloc of 57 Muslim countries whose primary objective is to pressure Europe and the United States into passing laws that would ban “negative stereotyping of Islam.” The OIC is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and funded by Islamic countries worldwide. It is the largest intergovernmental organization globally after the United Nations, with a collective population reaching over 1.8 billion.
Islamic Riots Were Staged
Westergaard believes that the riots were staged; in an interview with Canadian journalist Michael Coren which can be viewed below, he stated,
These riots in the streets, I think they were staged by regimes who can not fulfill their population’s needs. So, to divert their attention from the daily problems, to give way for frustrations and aggressions, these riots were staged.
This carefully choreographed violent response conducted by the OIC and the Islamic world was deployed to dismantle free expression and force Westen countries to implement Islamic blasphemy laws.
Westergaard Under State Protection
For the past 16 years, Westergaard and his family were guarded by almost a dozen different security and Intelligence Service (PET) agents, 24 hours a day at secret addresses. The family lived in “more than ten different government-provided safe houses before the Danish authorities turned his own house into a bunker, with electronic surveillance cameras, bullet-proof windows, steel doors, and a panic room,” reported Gatestone.
Attempts on Kurt Westergaard’s life
On 12 February 2008, three Muslims, two Tunisians and one Moroccan-born Dane – were charged with planning to murder Westergaard. Shortly afterward, however, the Danish Muslim was released without charge, and the two Tunisians were not charged either but expelled to Tunisia.
In 2009, U.S. authorities arrested two men of Pakistani descent in Chicago who were suspected of planning the assassination of Mr. Westergaard and plotting an attack against the paper, Jllands Posten.
On January 1, 2010, a 28-year-old Somali Muslim, Mohamed Geele, armed with an ax and knife, smashed his way into the home of 74-year-old Westergaard through his bullet-proof front door. Westergaard, who used a cane to walk, managed to grab his 5-year old granddaughter who had a broken leg and was sleeping, and hurry to a secure room.” Thankfully, security had converted his bathroom into a panic room, with a steel door and emergency button directly linking it to the police.
The Somali was smashing at the steel door with his ax, shouting “Blood” and “Revenge” and “Heeere’s Muhammed!” The Mulsim migrant who tried to kill Westergaard was allowed to live in Denmark despite being a member of an Islamic terrorist group and trying to kill then U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Gatestone explained,
The would-be assassin of Kurt Westergaard had been living in Denmark since he was 16. The man had a Danish residence permit, despite being a member of a terrorist organization. The Danish authorities knew him to be a member of al-Shabaab, the Somali branch of al-Qaeda. Five months ago, this same fanatic had been arrested and imprisoned for seven weeks in Kenya on suspicion of involvement in a plot to murder U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton by blowing up the hotel where she was staying.
Also, in 2010, four “Swedes” and a “Dane,” all Islamic migrants from the middle east, were arrested yesterday for planning a massive attack on the Jyllands-Posten building in Copenhagen as revenge for the Mohammed cartoons. They intended to make their operation a reprise of Mumbai, with as many innocent casualties as possible.
In 2008, Kurt Westergaard’s wife, Gitte, was expelled from her job as an educator following pressure from parents at the kindergarten where she used to work. Several parents expressed concern that their child’s safety was at risk due to Gitte’s presence. The parents were worried that an Islamic terrorist like the one who had almost taken the life of her husband and grandchild would show up at the school. Instead, the parents should be questioning why Denmark would open their doors to Muslims who would kill innocent children over a drawing of their prophet.
Kurt Westergaard and Lars Hedegaard Interview
In October 2009, Kurt Westergaard and Danish journalist, author, and President of the Free Press Society Lars Hedegaard gave a rare interview to Canadian journalist Michael Coren.
Four years after this interview, on February 5, 2013, Lars Hedegaard narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by ISIS outside his home in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Islamic terrorist wielding a handgun fired a shot at Hedegaard but missed, and the gun subsequently jammed.
Westergaard and Hedegaard addressed the stark difference between Muslim’s and Christians’ reactions to criticism and cartoons about their religion. For example, the ‘work of art known as “The Piss Christ” was a Catholic Crucifix placed in a jar of the artist’s urine. This piece of “art” was shown in national galleries and achieved critical acclaim. No Western governments demanded the criminalization of this “art,” which was even subsidized by tax dollars. There were no violent protests, assassinations, or artists forced to live in safe houses.
Muslims have put the free world on notice: if you insult Muhammad, Islam, their holy books, or even fail to consider Islamic law (Sharia) in all things, we will harm you.
Westergaard addressed the lack of support from fellow authors, artists, journalists, academic institutions, and politicians. The artists saw the same silence and “cultural appeasement” during World War II when the Nazis occupied Denmark. Hedegaard slammed the liberal elites who lost their “natural and sound instincts for freedom and free speech.” Instead, he continued, “they seem to have chosen Muslims as their pet underdogs or people who need to be coddled cause somehow they are not being treated well, which is also not true.”
Hedegaard explained the incredible treatment Islamic migrants who come to Demark receive stating. “Anyone who comes to the country is provided for, given an apartment, given a livelihood, free education, free medical services, anything you want, they get. In addition, they have the right to vote in municipal elections, even if they are not citizens. You can become a citizen after a few years…”
The President of the Free Press Society posed an interesting question, If Muslims “hate this country [Denmark] so much, if they are so offended by it, why do they come?”
Furthermore, both the men point out the irony of the left claiming Muslims are victimized while Islam, perhaps above all, embodies little tolerance for other religions. Finally, Westergaard and Hedegaard address the left’s continued silence towards dangerous Islamic antisemitism within Denmark and the Muslim world.
Watch Kurt Westergaard and Lars Hedegaard’s interview with Canadian journalist Michael Coren:
Freedom of Expression
Throughout the west, accusations of alleged Islamophobia by the left and Muslims have resulted in citizens being slaughtered, living in hiding, losing their careers, and living with targets on their backs.
The goal of the left and Islam is to force all of the world’s people to submit to their ideology. “Submission” is the proper translation of the word “Islam.” Submission will be accomplished through force or by voluntary conversion.
Leftist activists, politicians, and organizations assist this jihad on free speech by calling all who openly criticize Islam of being guilty of “hate speech.” This is a secular equivalent of “blasphemy” and is working its way into Western law.
“Hate speech” is the Marxist version of Islamic blasphemy laws.
The attempt to enact special legislation to protect Islam in Western and secular nations is a joint Islamic and Marxist effort to stop any form of dissenting expression. Dissenting expression is typically any attempt to defend Western culture, values, and identity. Affording Islam – or anyone – special rights is the death knell for a society based on equal rights.
In fact, both Islamic law (Sharia) and Marxist thought are not just incompatible with Western culture; they are designed specifically to be a destructive force to the Judeo-Christian values historically associated with the West.
The World Lost A Hero
Kurt Westergaard did not choose to retire or avoid further controversy, despite death threats and attempts on his life. Instead, the brave artist made the freedom of speech his driving cause, using his own experience to warn about what everyone in the West will face if we continue to surrender to Islam and its politically correct allies.
The cartoon which Mr. Westergaard drew has become one of the most iconic pictures of our time. The cartoon shines a light on issues of Islam in Western countries with secular values. “Westergaard’s drawing is one of the few that people have been killed over and whose author has had to live under a permanent threat of assassination,” reported Gatestone.
Mr. Westergaard, who invariably dressed in his favorite “anarchist” colors of red and black, never once wavered from his choice to draw Muhammad,
And so, finally, do I regret having made the cartoon? Not for a moment. Despite the price I have had to pay, I am sure that I did the right thing. I would draw it again given the chance.