Kurt Westergaard: Why I drew the Muhammad cartoon

The dhimmi’s at Princeton did not publish the cartoon with the story. Here it is and you can see all the cartoons and more on our page here.


By Kurt Westergaard, Guest Contributor | The Daily Princetonian

Published: Thursday, October 1st, 2009

When — in early September 2005 — I got a brief request from my editor at the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten to draw my impression of the prophet Muhammad, I had little idea of what I was getting myself into. To me it was just another day at the office. So I tried to do the best job I could, and I drew up a picture of the prophet with a bomb in his turban. I further inserted the quotation: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

On Sept. 30, the paper published 12 cartoons, including my own, that took Islam and Muhammad as their subject. The ‘Danish cartoon affair’ which ensued turned out to be perhaps the most important free speech case of our time. In the months after the cartoons’ publication, protests against them morphed from peaceful objections to irrational violence which included serious threats on my life. The cartoons have become a watershed test for the ability of the press to comment and criticize all religions without fear of violent reprisal. All of us — and not least the students and faculty at an institution such as Princeton — will be on the center front of this debate for years to come.

It is important, therefore, that we all understand what is at stake. It is for this reason that I spoke at Princeton yesterday and why I write here. I would also hope to explain to you why I acted as I did, and especially why I have refused to apologize for my cartoon despite strong pressure that I do so.

The initial reaction to the cartoons’ publication was fair. Many people — both Muslims and non-Muslims — were very angry at what they saw as an attempt to ridicule and offend a whole religion, and my contribution in particular was held out for criticism. Many of my fellow journalists joined with a number of politicians, intellectuals, artists and Danish ex-diplomats in condemning Jyllands-Posten’s action, and three thousand Muslims marched through the streets of Copenhagen in a peaceful protest. Eleven diplomats from Muslim countries asked for a meeting with our prime minister in order to elicit a state apology for the cartoons. He refused to meet with them, stating that Denmark enjoys freedom of the press and that it was not his business to apologize for something a newspaper had done. All was as it should be in a democratic country with free speech. People certainly had a right to voice their opinion, just as I had the right to voice mine.

In December and January 2006, however, things turned ugly. A delegation of Danish imams toured the Middle East in an attempt to stir up anger against the cartoons, and they brought with them some disgusting pictures that had never been published by any Danish newspaper. The outcome was predictable. Soon the entire Muslim world erupted in violent demonstrations that claimed the lives of more than 130 people. Jyllands-Posten’s cartoonists and editors received death threats. Danish embassies were burned down. Danish goods were boycotted. The entire Danish political class went into panic when it realized that this was the worst foreign policy crisis to have hit the country since World War II.

But Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has since become Secretary General of NATO, refused to back down and issue the apology demanded of him.

In February 2008, the Danish police uncovered a plot to assassinate me by two Tunisians living not far from my house on the outskirts of Aarhus. The would-be murderers planned to force their way into my house and strangle me with their bare hands. Since then I have been living under police protection and I expect to do so for the rest of my life.

In light of what has later been claimed about Jyllands-Posten’s intentions to deliberately and gratuitously offend 1.2 billion Muslims, I should point out that the paper’s rationale was a far different one. In the months leading up to the publication of the cartoons, Islamists had launched one attack on Danish free speech after another. A well-known author had been unable to find an artist who would dare to illustrate a children’s book on Muhammad. A concert was stopped by radical Muslims who claimed that music is un-Islamic. The culmination came when a lecturer of Jewish descent at Copenhagen University was abducted in broad daylight by a gang of Arabs and severely beaten for having recited from the Koran as part of his course. Nothing similar had happened during the university’s more than 525 years of history. Imagine what would happen if such a thing occurred at Princeton.

In this situation the paper felt that it was imperative to test whether we still enjoyed free speech — including the right to treat Islam, Muhammad and Muslims exactly as you would any other religion, prophet or group of believers. If we no longer had that right, one could only conclude that the country had succumbed to de facto sharia law.

Some have argued that the cartoons were unfair and should not be protected by freedom of speech. So I am often asked if do not accept that there must be limits to what one may say, write or draw. I certainly do. Free speech must have limits, but these limits should be determined by law and by precedents established by the courts. All civilized states have laws against the invasion of privacy, slander, divulging state secrets, inciting to violence and the like, and they should be respected. But my cartoon was well within the law, and nobody except for some fanatical Muslims said otherwise. As a matter of fact, 22 Muslim organizations in Denmark went to court in an attempt to get the cartoons censured. The case was thrown out as groundless.

Then there is the matter of taste and good manners. Here I must also plead my innocence. My cartoon was construed as an attempt to hurt the feelings of every Muslim in the world. That was never my intention. My picture was an attempt to expose those fanatics who have justified a great number of bombings, murders and other atrocities with reference to the sayings of their prophet. If many Muslims thought that their religion did not condone such acts, they might have stood up and declared that the men of violence had misrepresented the true meaning of Islam. Very few of them did so.

As I noted at the beginning of my article and in my talk yesterday, the ‘cartoon affair’ is the central barometer of values in our time, particularly regarding free speech. The university is based on the idea of discourse and discussion free from fear of reprisal or terror. Princeton, and all academic institutions, therefore have a particularly large stake in this debate. If my cartoons could not be published, then the whole idea of a liberal university is a sham.

And so, finally, do I regret having made the cartoon? Not for a moment. Despite the price I have had to pay, I am sure that I did the right thing. I would draw it again given the chance.

Kurt Westergaard is a Danish cartoonist whose cartoon of Muhammad appeared in September 2005 among the 12 Jyllands-Posten cartoons. He is touring the United States for the first time and spoke at Princeton on Wednesday.

41 Responses

  1. [...] Westergaard: Why I drew the Muhammad cartoon More Westergaard: “I am fighting for a just cause” [...]

  2. Just because he wanted to express his artsy feelings on a dangerous subject, he will need protection for life without paying any dime! Seems the Danish taxpayers are not getting a good deal out of this

    Good thing is he is not young.

    • You are protected by free speech even though I disagree with your point. Cartoons are not artsy. They are a very succinct way of expressing very complex thought, opinions and emotion (information) in a very small space.
      I wish he was 19 years old.
      By the way he can make fun of Christianity all he wants. I love the Lord Jesus Christ and He does not need mankind to defend him. Islam has lost the war already.

  3. On the contrary, if Denmark didn’t stand up for the principles of free speech and free press, it would be standing against its basic tenants for a free society. Muslims every where, as mentioned in the article, should stand against radical extremism. These radicals who will stop at nothing, even breaking into Mr. Westergaard’s home attempting to kill him, are only further widening the divide and shrouding their beloved religion in a cloud of mistrust, violent extremism and giving bigots around the world more ammunition to hate them. Why give your enemies a reason to write policy that hurts your people and your religion.
    Thank you Mr. Wetsergaard and thank you Denmark for standing firm in your commitment to equity and the ideas of freedom.

  4. Mr Westergaard, thank you for showing what the religion of peace is really about. It is sad that you have to worry about the speech you express. Islam is a religion of hate and their own actions prove it.
    If there is legislation against hate crimes in Denmark, the entire Islamic population should be locked up so that you may be free to express anything you like without worry.

    • maybe he should draw Jesus with bomb on the head. see wat u guys would say…

      • What Christians would say – is moot, my friend. They surely WOULD NOT – go into a killing frenzy and that’s the point. Freedom Of speech demonstrates – freedom of thought and freedom of religion. And that includes the freedom to criticize. The jihadists are in fact – doing more to frighten people away from Islam – than any writer ever could. Any religion spread by violence and fear – is NOT worthy of being considered, period.

      • Why would u say that he should draw Jesus with bomb? Jesus(peace be on him) is a messenger of God Almighty! If u r a muslim, u must believe in him. You say it like Jesus is a christian figure.

      • you are wrong christian are not the same as the moros who are became ignorant because of mohammad wrong teaching.

  5. [...] Westergaard in his own words why he drew the cartoon at Creeping Sharia: My cartoon was construed as an attempt to hurt the feelings of every Muslim in the world. That was never my intention. My picture was an attempt to expose those fanatics who have justified a great number of bombings, murders and other atrocities with reference to the sayings of their prophet. If many Muslims thought that their religion did not condone such acts, they might have stood up and declared that the men of violence had misrepresented the true meaning of Islam. Very few of them did so. [...]

  6. NUKE THEM ALL and LET muhammad SORT UM OUT! I spit on their “religion of peace”, and so should all intelligent people…

  7. Educated people? I hope you don’t include yourself in that category…

  8. That Stupid Dumb head is gone crazy and know nothing about the personality and life style of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his teachings; He has no ethical and moral rights to hurt and offend the religious sentiments of fifteen hundred million Muslims or he is illiterate and armature screw head who think that our prophet taught us to create violence in fact Holy Prophet Muhammad taught and spread the message of peace and helping and serving humanity.

    Great number of bombings, murders and other atrocities are not the message of Prophet Muhammad or Islam and those people who are doing it are not even Muslims at all, they could be Muslims like looking people but those are manipulated to be a part of conspiracy to divert the attention of public or influence peddlers for any government or politicians, which could be national and international

    • Sorry to break it to you, that false prophet you follow certainly wanted war and complete submission of all to Islam. Sharia law and the Islamization of the World movement are one and the same. You are practicing “Taqqiyah”, allowed to lie in the name of promoting your Islamic agenda. No honor in your so-called prophet that marries a six year old girl, but didn’t have SEX with her until she was nine years old! How sick can you be!

  9. Don’t come here with that bullshit Assan.

    He has every right to say whatever he wants. We all do. Just as you have the right to offend him calling him stupid, dumb, crazy – which are absolutely intentional and venomous and yet after your hateful diatribe, in the same run on sentence, you try and tell us Muhammad taught peace…clearly you either didn’t learn or you are lying out of your ass.

    Even if anyone were gullible enough to believe your bullshit, you are wasting your time. You and the tens of millions of other Muslims should be convincing the Muslims who are killing in the name of Islam, as Moh. did, that they are wrong and should not be doing it.

    Unfortunately there are enough Islamic scholars, clerics, fatwas, and other Islamic sources that clearly state that offensive jihad to spread islam is not only permitted but required by all able-bodied muslims, and they are rewarded for it…

    Save the dawah for another site kid.

  10. No he does not, neither do you by any means when it comes to prophets and some one’s religious sentiments. Point is I never disgrace your religion and any of your prophets, I won’t do that because our prophet taught us to respect other religions and their religious sentiments so I do respect Jesus and Martin Luther and never said a word and will never do

    Some how if I get offensive on your cartoonist, that is because he crossed the limit to get some cheap publicity, you have the right to speech so you can comment on me and I can comment on Kurt, how come Kurt or you disrespect a Prophet ??? That is insane and being at the highest level of ignorance and cheapness
    You don’t know nothing about jihad, you heard some where jihad is terrorism and you start believing so dear don’t believe in what you listen if you have some link or reference or a valid source then go and research or you can ask me to provide you one
    It’s better to talk logical and with a valid reference for one who don’t have sufficient knowledge so that they can understand if they want to but those who don’t want to learn will remain ignorant, they have eyes but they can’t see and they have ears but they don’t listen
    A non Muslim Well Educated Jewish American Michael H. Hart (who is no supporter of Islam or Prophet Muhammad personally, a research scientist at NASA…a Ph.D in astrophysics and a professor of physics astronomy and history of science) has ranked Prophet as the top personality in history and he recognized that ranking Muhammad first might be controversial but from a secular historian perspective this was the correct choice because Muhammad is the only man to have been both a founder of a major world religion and major political leader

  11. We are free to blasphemize Islam and any other religion all we want…and it’s a right we will not hesitate to exercise frequently.

    Muhammad’s resume also includes mass murder and marrying a six year old, and having sex with a nine year old…now those are things to be proud of.

  12. Good article by a courageous man. I always wondered why some crazy Dane would stick his head in the lion’s mouth like that. Now I know.

    To all the Islamo-fascist apologists, you can say what you like about Mohammad or his followers. We in the West (well those of us with balls anyway) judge by actions and what we see. What do those of us who are non-Muslims see? Glad you asked, and this is why we think the whole “religion of peace” bromide is a crock of pork drippings.

    *Young Middle Eastern or Arabic males killing civilians in Western countries, using catchphrases like “Allahu akbar” to identify themselves.
    *Muslims on the Internet beheading live captured non-Muslims for their own amusement and self-gratification. (We in the West drink and masturbate instead. It’s less gory and troublesome.)
    *Imams and Mullahs having hate-speech-fueled rants in mosques to rile up faithful against the non-believers, using Mohammad’s name quite liberally in the diatribes (praise be unto him indeed… meh…)
    *Islamic TV, radio and Internet sites, quite clearly and concisely, state that with or without the sword (they don’t care which,) the world will fall to Islam. Those that accept Islam at the point of a sword, well great. Those that don’t, DIE INFIDEL!
    *Supposedly moderate Muslims are notoriously silent on all the intolerant and hate-filled derring-do committed in Allah’s name. Either they’re cowards, they’re sympathetic to the Islamo-fascists, or they just don’t give a shit.

    All I know is Islam is the kind of death-glorifying cultish belief system that makes me give it a wide berth because of the bunch of crazies that inevitably follow. Mohammad should’ve been strangled in the crib for all the pain and death he later caused to women, children and non-believers with his power-mad, misogynistic, intolerant belief system that has all the moral qualities of Scientology with a hundred thousand times the bloodlust and an infinitesimal fraction of the joy.

    • Ironic, considering that the West has inflicted the most deaths of innocent women, children, non-believers on this planet Earth, that too in the modern era! Was the atomic bomber West following Mohammad? Was Hitler a Mohammadan?
      It seems the so-called western non-Muslim is as intolerant as the mohammadan he critcizes. But the worst part is the the Westerner is also a bigot and a hypocrite.

      • Really no irony at all.The ONLY rational and intelligent conclusion that be, is that some of these men, those with obvious twisted ideas, do in fact have one single source of inspiration, and that being pure evil. As far as muhammed’s sex with an innocent nine year old child, well,…why would ANYONE with ANY decency NEED to go ANY further? Wouldn’t you then question the origin, the very source of this entire system? At the same time, it IS sadly true that those same sick, demented ways can also be tied to those in the west, while CLAIMING to represent other religions. Nevertheless, ONE will very soon be proven right, and has always been proven to be what He’s claimed; Just, Good, and True. In His forewarned wrath, His righteousness will wipe all evils from this sinful, hate-filled world of paganism and idolatry.

  13. humm so leme tell you what you know and what you think is because of your poor knowledge and cauz you are ignorant enough to be living in what you see and what you hear and accordingly you made your own perceptions about religion Islam and prophet of Islam, let me make you one thing clear if we have been taught to spread Islam by sword I or some other Muslim would have killed you way before and believe me that is true but you are alive and happy so we are taught to respect and help every human regard less of religion, I am not sure where do you come from with all these bogus and dumb ideology and try to connect it with Islam
    There is a Final Word for a Muslim and that is the Book of God, the Holy Quran if you really want to know about religion Islam you are welcome to read the book and find out and plz don’t come with your bogus assumptions which you have about my religion

    • LOL – thanks for confirming your cowardice… you don’t have half the balls your fearless leader of jihad had… now go try and convince your fellow Muslims with your lame bullshit…

      As it is now obvious, at first “the fighting” was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory- ( I ) against them who start “the fighting” against you (Muslims)… (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah… as mentioned in SurahAIBaqaraSl (II), Allmran (III) and Tauba (IX)… and other Sarah (Chapters of the Qur’an). Allah (swt) made “the fighting’ (Jihad) obligatory for the Muslims and gave importance to the subjectmatter of Jihad in all the Sarah (Chapters of the Qur’an) which were revealed (at AlMadina) as in Allah’s Statement:

      March forth whether you are light (being healthy, young and wealthy) or heavy (being ill, old and poor), strive [ hard with your wealth and your lives in the Cause of Allah. This is better for you if you but knew. (V.9:41).

      And He (Allah) said:

      Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know. (V.2:216)

      “The fighting”, even though by its nature is disliked by the human soul because of the liability, of being killed, orbeing taken as a captive, or being injured, with the wasting ofthe wealth, the damaging of the industries, the destruction ofthe country, the spreading of fear and awe in the souls and the (possibility) of being exiled from one’s homeland, Allah had made ready an immensely good reward that cannot be imagined by a human soul.

      ‘Ikrima (a religious scholar) said: At first Muslims disliked it (Jihad), but later they loved it and said: “We listen and obey.” And that is because the submission to the order to fight means hardship, but if the reward is made known it becomes to compare the hardship involved and its reward.

      The Verses of the Qur’an and the Sunna (the Prophet’s legal ways, orders etc.) have exhorted greatly for Jihad and have made quite clear its rewards, and praised greatly thosewhoperform Jihad (the holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) and explained to them various kinds of honours which they will receive from their Lord (Allah swt). This is because they-Mudahidin are Allah’s troops. Allah (swt) will establish His religion (Islam), with them (Mujahidin). He will repel the might of His enemies, and with them He will protect Islam and guard the religion safely.

      And it is they, (Mujahidin) who fight against the enemies of Allah in order that the worship should be all for Allah (Alone and not for any other deity) and that the Word of Allah (swt) (i.e. none has the right to be worshipped but Allah (swt) and His religion Islam) should be superior. Allah has made them (Mujahidin) partners in reward along with all those who guard Islam with their weapons, along with their good deeds which they performed even if they sleep in their homes.

      • Very unfair, Creeping! You can blaspheme Islam all you want, but, please, do it with dignity. You have taken the ‘Jihad’ verses totally out of the context. You have shown them as if the Muslim only purpose is to kill the non-muslims. That is not true. Read these verses in their context, along with the other verses before and after them. Just like any other constitution, Islam also gives the Muslim to neutralize their enemies if they attack first or are hell-bent to destroy the Muslims.
        As for your so much celebrated free speech right, it is again very hypocritical. Along the same lines, I can claim for the right to free motion. I have a right to let my hands and legs fly in any direction irrespective who gets in the way and get smacked. Free motion should be my right. But here even you will agree the right to free motion can not be granted. So, why grant the right of speech if it hurts someone?! Creeping, please grow up and stop spreading hate.

        • You don’t have a right to not have your feelings hurt…

          We don’t spread hate, we post news items with minimal commentary… context is readily available for any and all to read as we have, from many Islamic sources and jihad is not only permitted, it is an obligation.

          If you have a problem with free speech and think it’s hypocritical you are free to write about that, start a blog, do whatever you want.

          You’re also free to convince Muslims to amend the violent and intolerant aspects of their “holy” book, and convince Muslims who wage jihad to spread sharia law and Islam that they have taken it out of context.

          The sooner you convince them to stop the imperialism and killing of others in the name of Islam the sooner we can move on to more positive topics.

          Let us know when you convince Muslims they are taking the Koran out of context.

        • “You don’t have a right to not have your feelings hurt…”. A very simple way to reciprocate is to say that you do not have a right to tell me not to have a right to have my feelings hurt. My friend creeping, this can go on forever aimlessly.
          Yes, Jihad is an obligation just like it is an obligation on any soldier to protect the interests of its nation/people even to the extent of killing off the enemy if he has to.
          You are absolutely right that the so-called Muslims are taking Koran out of the context, but that does not justify you (etc..) to take Koran out of context too.
          I also understand that you definitely have a right to feel aggrieved of the governance of the Muslims. I totally understand that if you are slinging mud at the Muslims, primarily it is the so-called Muslim’s fault to cause the action. However, there is no need to amend anything in the source i.e., ‘The Holy Koran’. I am sure if you yourself read it you will feel enlightened and enraged at how foolish these so-called Muslims are. But , please do not allow yourself to be foolish. You are supposed to be the matured person of the West who has the stability to analyze rationally not react in anger and with hatred.
          I also agree with you that it is the so-called Muslims who need to be rehabilitated not the non-Muslims. I live in the West and can clearly see the West being more civilized (on most of the occasions) than the so-called Muslim society.
          But please do not let your grievances cloud your better judgment. After there is a reason that Bernard Shaw Declared Islam as the best religion and the (contemporary)Muslims as the worst followers. You can confirm it with the history that not may hundreds of years back it was the enlightened Muslim who made scientific, social breakthroughs. It was the enlightened Newton ( a devout Christian) who understood the Bible more than the contemporary Church. Do not alienate the so-called Muslim by rebuking their religion rather force them to change by showing compassion towards them.

        • One more thing very quickly. Next time you attempt to quote some verse from Koran please reference it. It is a very standard norm (at least in the West) followed in literature surveys.
          Peace

          • No need to be condescending, we’re not friends, and if you want to give orders, get your own blog. Everything above is referenced and if you are so sure something we quoted was out of context then you should be the one providing references and putting it in context.

            Of course, in doing so you will be telling 1.5 billion Muslims their prophet was a liar and that would earn you a fatwa despite your dhimmitude.

        • Ok. So you choose to be as hateful and irrational as the so-called Muslims you declare to be. You choose not be friends with me proves how peaceful you are towards others and how much you respect freedom of speech. It confirms my theory that those touting freedom of speech are hypocrites.

          Stop beating about the bush childishly to prove your point based on mere hearsay and very shoddy, biased literature survey.

          You are no better than the ones you criticize.

      • AWESOME reply to Ass-hand!

  14. very bad work done by u soon u will see result

  15. [...] Kurt Westergaard: Why I drew the Muhammad cartoon – see original cartoons on our Cartoons page [...]

  16. I am very impressed with the author’s bravery and wisdom. Savage cultures and religions are in my opinion a great threat to the West and should not be tolerated. Culture and religion are choices not inherent qualities. A person can change them at will, therefore ,I believe, one is well justified in in being intolerant towards cultures and religions that promote the denial of the freedom of others. Unfortunately, many followers of Western culture have become sheep and will tolerate just about any danger and offense to their freedom. The West needs more persons like Kurt Westergaard.

    • 100% agree… It reminds me of that quote: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ (or something like that!).

  17. Please draw more cartoons. They do a very good representation of Islamic fanatism. Very educational information about the religion of hate, intolerence and violence.

  18. I cannot imagine a more dreary world than one without freedom of the press, free speech and controvery, and — please — a bit of humor and parody. Westergaard’s work was brilliant in terms of satire, totally innocent in intent, and astute in parodying both the violence conjoined with Islam, and the reliance on the word of Mohammed for that very violence. He should be knighted instead of threatened with a fatwa. When the revolution comes, I’m standing with Westergaard — (and poster BulletMagnetEd)!

  19. [...] Kurt Westergaard Interview: Why I drew the Muhammad cartoon [...]

  20. Reblogged this on Johnbenedict's Blog and commented:
    If Nazi’s did what Islamists do, the country would be up in arms to stop it. What is it about religion that makes us turn a blind eye? They exploit our tolerance to undermine democracy and free speech and we just sit back and let it happen. Are soaps, sport, a celebrity cult and playing video games and the latest gadgets taking all our attention that we don’t notice what is happening all around us? Have we all become like Pinochio and his ‘friends’ going to the fair who so obsessed with pleasure didn’t realise what was going on until they woke up the next day as donkeys. How many today still know what ‘free speech’ means and actively seek to protect it or are we already not able anymore to produce more than a ‘hee-haw’.

  21. “Your comments & your IP address are your legal problem, not ours.””
    Hillarious :D

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