An al Qaeda-led group in Iraq has put a price on the head of a cartoonist whose drawing of the Prophet Mohammad appeared in a Swedish newspaper.
An audio message on the Internet offers a 72,000 euro reward for Lars Vilks’ murder. His sketch depicts the head of the Prophet on the body of a dog. Dogs are considered dirty in Islam.
Half that sum is promised for killing the paper’s editor Ulf Johannson who staunchly defends the picture’s publication.
“Threats like these should not stop freedom of speech or expression,” he says. “And I can’t say I have changed my mind because now I’m the one being threatened.”
The controversy appeared to have died down since the caricature was published last month.
But the audiotape, purportedly from the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, raises the price for Vilks murder if he is “slaughtered like a lamb.”
Leading Swedish firms are also threatened in the message.
It says that if no apology for the cartoon is forthcoming Swedes can, as the speaker puts it, “wait for our strikes on their economy and giant companies such as Ericsson, Volvo and Ikea.”
The Swedish Muslim Council has strongly condemend the threats, and the author –
contacted by telephone – joked about the price on his head saying he would have expected more, adding that religion shouldn’t interfere with politics.