Bomb turban cartoon will 'never die'

2010-09-08 21:28

Potsdam - A Danish cartoonist who received death threats for a caricature of Muhammad with a bomb for a turban said on Wednesday, as he was honoured in Germany, that his drawing would never die.

"Maybe they will try to kill me and maybe they will have success, but they cannot kill the cartoon," Kurt Westergaard told reporters at an event in Potsdam, near Berlin, attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also said a clash between Islam - he called it a "reactionary religion" - and Western culture was inevitable and that his cartoon, one of 12 first published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, was merely a "catalyst".

"I do not regret (the cartoon) because I am absolutely sure that this clash... between two cultures would have happened sooner or later," he said.

"The cartoon became a catalyst."

The drawings deeply offended many Muslims and sparked protests in January and February 2006 that culminated in the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut, and the death of dozens of people in Nigeria.

In 2008, around 20 Danish newspapers reproduced the drawings triggering further protests in Muslim countries, including Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Reactionary religion

In January a Somali man allegedly broke into Westergaard's home and threatened to kill him with an axe and a knife. In 2009 two men were arrested in Chicago allegedly with plans to attack his newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten.

Westergaard told a German newspaper on Wednesday that Islam was a "reactionary religion".

"In my eyes you cannot compare Islam with Christianity. It is not a nice religion and in many ways is reactionary," he told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, citing as an example "barbaric" punishments for gays.

"But I will also stand up for people having the right to practise this religion," the local daily quoted him as saying.

Merkel meanwhile was criticised by Germany's Central Muslim Council (ZMD) for planning to make the keynote speech at Wednesday's prize-giving for the cartoonist, who received the M100 Media Prize 2010.

Merkel was honouring someone "who in our eyes kicked our Prophet, and therefore kicked all Muslims," ZMD head Aiman Mazyek told the radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur.

Precious commodity

He said giving Westergaard a prize in this "highly charged and heated time" was "highly problematic".

Merkel's spokesperson earlier on Wednesday defended her decision to attend the prize-giving ceremony.

"The chancellor is sending out to all people in Germany, Muslims or not, the message that press freedom, which will be the focus of her speech, is a precious commodity," spokesperson Steffen Seibert told a regular briefing.

The award was being given to Westergaard at the end of the sixth annual M100 Sanssouci Colloquium international media conference.