Kurt Westergaard, 86, Dies; His Muhammad Cartoon Sparked Outrage

Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist whose 2005 caricature of the Prophet Muhammad sporting a bomb-shaped turban touched off violent protests by Muslims, prompted a bloodbath that left 12 folks lifeless on the workplaces of a French satirical journal and made him a goal of assassins for the remainder of his life, died on Wednesday in Copenhagen. He was 86.

His household introduced his demise to Danish media on Sunday. No particular trigger was given.

Mr. Westergaard was certainly one of 12 artists commissioned by Jyllands-Posten, a self-described center-right newspaper in Denmark, to attract Muhammad “as you see him.” The newspaper mentioned “the Muhammad cartoons,” as they got here to be recognized — though some depicted different figures — weren’t supposed to be offensive however quite to lift questions on self-censorship and the boundaries to criticism of Islam.

Mr. Westergaard mentioned that when he drew his cartoon he was searching for to underscore his view that some folks invoked the prophet to justify wanton violence. He later defined that the bearded man he had depicted might have been any Islamic fundamentalist — not essentially the founding father of Islam.

Still, many Muslims have been outraged as a result of they consider that any photographs of the prophet, a lot much less one provocatively linked to terrorism, are thought of blasphemous.

In 2006, Danish embassies within the Arab world have been attacked in riots that claimed dozens of lives. In 2008, three folks have been charged by the Danish authorities with threatening to homicide Mr. Westergaard. Two years later, a Somali Muslim intruder armed with an ax and a knife penetrated the cartoonist’s dwelling in Aarhus, although it was outfitted with metal doorways, bulletproof glass and surveillance cameras.

At the time, Mr. Westergaard and his 5-year-old granddaughter have been cowering in a fortified rest room. The intruder was shot by the police and later convicted and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and deportation.

In 2015, three Islamic militants stormed the Paris workplace of the journal Charlie Hebdo, which had reprinted the cartoons, and killed 12 folks, most of them employees members.

In an interview with The National Post of Denmark in 2009, Mr. Westergaard expressed disappointment on the response to his cartoon by many newcomers to his nation.

“Many of the immigrants who came to Denmark, they had nothing,” he mentioned. “We gave them everything — money, apartments, their own schools, free university, health care. In return, we asked one thing — respect for democratic values, including free speech. Do they agree? This is my simple test.”

He was born Kurt Vestergaard on July 13, 1935, in Jutland, Denmark, the peninsula flanked by the North and Baltic Seas.

Raised in a conservative Christian household, he skilled what he described as a spiritual liberation as a highschool pupil. He later enrolled on the University of Copenhagen to check psychology after which taught German and labored in a college for disabled college students in Djursland. He joined Jyllands-Posten in 1983 and retired in 2010, when he was 75.

His survivors embrace his spouse, Gitte; their 5 youngsters; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

In 2008, Mr. Westergaard gained the Sappho Award from the Free Press Society of Denmark. In 2010, he obtained the M100 Media Award from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for his contributions to freedom of opinion.

“I want to be remembered as the one who struck a blow for free speech,” he as soon as mentioned. “But there is no doubt that others will instead remember me as a Satan who insulted the religion of a billion people.”

Mr. Westergaard and his spouse lived beneath tight safety after the authorities foiled the primary assassination try in opposition to him in 2006, though it was troublesome to cover a person so typically nattily attired in purple trousers, a broad-brimmed black hat and giraffe-headed strolling stick.

He selected to dwell overtly in Aarhus in recent times.

“I do not see myself as a particularly brave man,” he instructed The Guardian in 2010, including: “But in this situation I got angry. It is not right that you are threatened in your own country just for doing your job. That’s an absurdity that I have actually benefited from, because it grants me a certain defiance and stubbornness. I won’t stand for it. And that really reduces the fear a great deal.”