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It's Muhammed ... the musical

The cartoonist who set off a round of Muslim protests after portraying the Prophet Muhammed as a dog in a drawing in a Swedish newspaper is working on a play based on the controversy.

As WND reported, the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published the cartoon showing the head of Muhammed, the prophet of Islam, on the body of a dog on August 18 to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of expression and religion.

Lars Vilks, the cartoonist who produced the sketch, told Danish agency Ritzau, “You must be allowed to criticize religion, but I am not opposed to Islam.”

Vilks’ shaky drawing is a play on the current practice of placing “rondellhunds” – roundabout dogs, in English – at traffic intersections, or roundabouts, as a form of counter-cultural expression. The amateur and usually humorous sculptures of dogs are placed covertly.

Vilks’ sketch bears a caption, which translated reads, “The prophet as rondellhund.”

While Vilks did not gain as much attention as the Danish cartoonists whose depictions of Muhammed in 2006 ignited a firestorm and boycotts of Danish products across the Islamic world, the Swede’s work was protested in Pakistan and, the German daily Der Spiegel reported, a $100,000 bounty was placed on his head by al-Qaida, with a $50,000 bonus if his assassin slit his throat.

Taking his inspiration from Andrew Lloyd Weber, Vilks is creating a musical in the mold of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” to tell the story of the cartoon controversy. The stage production is tentatively titled “Dogs.”

“Muhammad is also a superstar in the modern sense of the term,” Vilks told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

While casting is not yet complete, Vilks is considering roles for Sweden’s prime minister, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and al-Qaida. A “choir of the offended” will give voice to those protesting his work.

Vilks said he was not worried about new protests and threats over the musical.

“People will understand that this is a positive debate,” he said. “A sense of humor about this has been missing so far.”

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