Swedish cartoonist of Prophet Muhammad killed in car crash | Religious News
Lars Vilks had been living under police protection since he portrayed the revered figure of Islam with the body of a dog in 2007.
Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who sparked worldwide controversy in 2007 with drawings depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, was killed in a car crash.
The 75-year-old man died in an accident near the southern town of Markaryd on Sunday, Swedish police said in a statement.
Vilks, who had been living under police protection since the drawings were published, was traveling in a police car which collided with a truck.
The car, which had left Stockholm and was heading south, veered into the path of the truck and both vehicles caught fire.
Two policemen were also killed.
The driver of the truck was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
Police said they were unsure why the car had entered the wrong lane, but were investigating whether a tire may have exploded.
The car carrying Vilks had puncture-proof tires, police said. However, the remains of exploded tires were reportedly found on the road.
“This is a very tragic incident. It is now important for all of us that we do everything possible to investigate what happened and what caused the collision,” police said in a statement.
“Initially, there is no indication that anyone else is involved.”
Born in 1946 in Helsingborg in southern Sweden, Vilks worked as an artist for almost four decades and rose to fame after producing several controversial works.
He was largely unknown outside of Sweden until 2007, when he drew sketches of the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body.
The Prophet Muhammad is deeply revered by Muslims and Islam forbids any kind of visual representation of him.
Since the publication of the cartoons, Vilks had been living under police surveillance around the clock following threats to his life.
In 2010, two men tried to burn down his house in southern Sweden.
In 2014, a woman from the US state of Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to a plot to kill him.
A year later, one person was shot dead by a sniper in Copenhagen, Denmark, during a meeting to mark the 25th anniversary of an Iranian fatwa against British writer Salman Rushdie, which Vilks attended. Vilks was widely seen as the intended target.
Vilks had said the cartoons were not deliberately meant to provoke Muslims but to challenge the limits of political correctness in the art world.
In an interview with Esquire magazine in 2015, he said: “In Sweden we love dogs, so when you have a dog show, everything is very pretty. But in the Middle East, dogs can be considered unclean because of religious dogma. I wanted to remind people of that. That’s when I stumbled across the suit and drew the Prophet as a roundabout dog, a positive dog.