September 27, 2021

Death of Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Muhammad

Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, famous for drawing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad who provoked violent riots in some Muslim countries, has died at the age of 86, his family told Danish media on Sunday (July 18th).

Kurt Westergaard died in his sleep after a long illness, she told the Berlingske newspaper.

The illustrator is at the origin of the most famous of the 12 drawings published on September 30, 2005 by the Danish conservative daily Jyllands-Posten under the title ‘The face of Mahomet’. His contribution showed the prophet with a turban shaped like a bomb.

The cartoons went unnoticed at first, but after 15 days a demonstration took place in Copenhagen, and then the ambassadors of Muslim countries in Denmark protested.

Anger then escalated with anti-Danish violence in the Muslim world in February 2006, seen in Denmark as the most serious foreign policy crisis for the country since World War II.

End of life under police protection

Cartoon violence culminated in 2015 with the bombing that killed 12 French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which reprinted the cartoons in 2012.

The cartoonist had worked at Jyllands-Posten since the mid-1980s as an illustrator, and according to Berlingske, the design in question had been printed once before, without causing much controversy.

During the last years of his life, Kurt Westergaard, like a number of others associated with the cartoons, had to live under police protection at a secret address.

In early 2010, Danish police arrested a 28-year-old Somali man armed with a knife in the artist’s house, who planned to kill him.