Kurt Westergaard is in hiding from Islamic militants who want him dead. Now, the Danish cartoonist says he’s ready to part with the source of his travails, a small ink sketch of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.
But first there is the ticklish question of price.
“I would like to think that it has some value,” says Mr. Westergaard, the 72-year-old creator of one of the world’s most famous cartoons and one that inflamed Muslims world-wide. “It is a symbol of democracy and freedom of expression. I think I should have a little money for this,” he says.
The drawing is locked in a bank vault while the cartoonist shuttles between temporary havens the Danish secret police have found for him around this blustery port city. His is by far the best known of 12 Muhammad-related cartoons published in September 2005 by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. But how do you fix the value of something that auction houses won’t touch, that museums won’t hang on their walls and that still inspires murderous passions?
Two weeks ago, Danish authorities said they had foiled a plot to kill Mr. Westergaard in his home. Seventeen Danish newspapers, outraged and eager to show solidarity, reprinted his drawing. Muslims again took to the streets. Iran and others demanded an apology. “I always had a feeling this cartoon crisis would not end,” says Mr. Westergaard. “Now I know.”
Yet the new round of trouble may only increase the cartoon’s worth eventually. “Things gain value from public interest and history,” notes Sebastian Lerche, a director of Denmark’s biggest auction house, Bruun Rasmussen. He is quick to add he has no interest in testing the market: “We see no point in offending millions of people,” he says.
Some Muslims here want the bomb-in-a-turban drawing destroyed. Salah Suleiman, an activist in a mosque that helped whip up the fury over it in early 2006, delights in the artist’s troubles and says no amount of money can save him from God’s wrath: “He is living like a rat…. He is living in hell already.”
Mr. Westergaard’s wife, a retired kindergarten teacher, has also suggested destruction, by selling the cartoon to a wealthy Arab who “can then burn it in the central square in Mecca.” Mr. Westergaard says he likes the idea of getting money from an oil sheik but would prefer the cartoon stay intact and in Denmark.
The difference between us and them:
A less-famed Muhammad cartoon sold for around $2,900 in an Internet auction, but that was in late 2005, before the global uproar. The artist in that case donated the cash, which came from an anonymous buyer, to earthquake relief in Pakistan.
In an event last year at the Reagan Library in California, Mr. Rose, the Danish culture editor, saw the cartoons’ selling power. He autographed posters featuring his newspaper’s original cartoon edition, which sold out in minutes for $1,000 apiece.
Money has played a role on the other side of the barricades, too. When Muslims started burning Danish flags and ransacking Danish property in early 2006, extremists joined in a bidding war to get Mr. Westergaard killed. The bounties they offered ranged from a new car to a million dollars.
Denmark said Thursday it will oppose any debt relief deal for Sudan in response to the Sudanese president’s comments urging the Muslim world to boycott Danish goods over the publication of a Prophet Muhammad cartoon.
Interior Minister Ulla Toernaes said she summoned Sudan’s ambassador to Denmark to demand an explanation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s comments a day earlier.
Al-Bashir said Wednesday that he would bar Danes from Sudan and told tens of thousands of people at a government-backed rally in Khartoum that the Muslim world should boycott Denmark because of a cartoon reprinted recently in Danish newspapers.
Danish newspapers reprinted a cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban on Feb. 13 to show their commitment to freedom of speech after police uncovered a plot to kill the artist who drew it.
The drawing was one of 12 cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper in 2006 that triggered major protests in Muslim countries. The republication again sparked protests in several Muslim countries, including Sudan.
Sudan owes Denmark nearly $405 million and after Sudan’s government and southern rebels signed a peace agreement in 2005, international donors said they would consider debt relief.
Meanwhile, brace for Fitna and the coming paroxysm of rage against the Netherlands over Fitna–which will be complete by Sunday. It’s coming soon to a jihadi theater near you. The CSM reports:
Outrage continued to rise this week in parts of the Muslim world over the depiction of Islam in Danish newspapers earlier this month and the possible release of a film in the Netherlands critical of the religion.
Muslims in Sudan, Pakistan, Turkey, the Middle East, and other parts of the Islamic world, have been angered over the republication of one cartoon from a 2005 series that satirized Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard visual depictions of the prophet Muhammad as blasphemous.
Governments in Europe are also bracing for protests against the possible broadcast of an anti-Islamic film by right-wing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders that links Islam to violence. Mr. Wilders says the film, which he plans to broadcast on the Internet and possibly television, will be finished Sunday, Reuters reports.