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Infamous cartoon by Kurt Westergaard

Want action, dangers, the thrill of the chase? Forget about parachuting into war zones or joining the CIA and just draw a few cartoons. The new focus for the 21st millennium veers sharply toward intellectual oppression, as fascist control freaks arm to combat human expression itself.

Muslim extremists have been particularly busy in this regard, as the list of threatened or even murdered artists, performers and writers grows throughout the world. They’ve done a bang-up job of it too, as they’ve managed to obtain their ends in many areas of the globe.

Rampant misogyny, violence and lack of human rights are rife throughout the Muslim world but are suddenly forbidden territory for artists and commentators in free countries. Thanks to cowardice and political correctness of those in high places or those who wish to get there, extremists have virtually silenced all criticism of Islamic culture in the arts. Virtually anyone working for the state, universities, public schools and many private corporations, has to watch their step and mind their manners lest the ax next fall on them.

This is an era when “offending” may cost your job, fines or even your life.

Here is an incomplete list in roughly chronological order, of victims of Muslim aggression in the arts since 1977. It’s depressingly long:

  • 1977: 12 African-American gunmen identified as Muslims seize buildings in Washington, D.C., to stop screening of the film “Mohammad, Messenger of God,” thinking it portrayed images of Mohammad and seeking the release of prisoners.

    RESULTS: Two people were killed, others injured and 149 people taken hostage.

  • 1988: French singer Véronique Sanson receives death threats from Muslims, in reaction to her song “Allah.”

    RESULTS: She apologized, removed the song from performances and needed police protection for a time.

  • 1989: British author Salman Rushdie receives fatwa (death sentence) from Ayatollah Khomeini for “blaspheming against Islam” in his novel “The Satanic Verses.”

    RESULTS: Rushdie is still hiding 22 years later; Japanese translator of “The Satanic Verses,” Hitoshi Igarashi, murdered in 1991; Ettore Capriolo, Italian translator, stabbed in 1991 but survived; William Nygaard, Norwegian publisher, barely survived assassination attempts in 1993. He defiantly went on to publish other books on Islam; 37 people murdered in attempt to kill Turkish translator Aziz Nesin, who is beaten; The novel is illegal in all Muslim nations except Turkey.

  • 1992 Poet Sadiq ‘Abdul-Karim Malallah convicted of apostasy and blasphemy in Saudi Arabia.

    RESULTS: Publicly beheaded in Al-Qatif.

  • 1993: Algerian Poet and writer Youssef Sebti warned to cease criticism of Islamic extremists.

    RESULT: Murdered by extremists, along with fellow Algerians Abdelkader Alloula, stage director, Ahmed Asselah, director of the Fine Arts Institute, and Rabah, son of Asselah.

  • 1993: Deepika Thathaal (Deeyah), Norwegian singer and woman’s’ rights activist of Afghan-Pakistani background, creates a video in a bikini and comments on Islamic traditions such as honor killings.

    RESULTS: Attempted kidnapping and forced to flee Norway at 16 because of harassment, attacks and death threats from the Islamic community.


  • Lagerfeld for Chanel
  • 1994: Designer Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel photograph Claudia Schiffer in a sexy dress with Arabic script, which was asserted to be part of the Koran.

    RESULT: Chanel apologized and removed the dress from its collection, although the script was actually from Indian love poems. Other designers are fearful of using Arabic script.

  • 1994: Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer and Nobel Prize winner, criticizes Khomeini and religious extremists.

    RESULT: Mahfouz was stabbed in the neck and permanently disabled. He lived under constant protection until his death in 2006.

  • 1994: Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi ex-doctor turned author, arouses the great wrath of Muslims over her novel “Shame.”

    RESULTS: Riots and threats to release thousands of poisonous snakes unless she was executed. Lives in exile where she cannot practice medicine.

  • 1998: Lounes Matoub becomes a popular Berber singer with pro-democracy, anti-Islamist and anti-government positions.
    RESULT: Murdered. Two men were convicted earlier this year for his killing.
  • 1997: Israeli Tatyana Suskin makes a poster of Mohammad as a pig, touching off riots and general destruction by Palestinians.

    RESULT: Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized for the incident, and Suskin received a 2 year prison sentence from Israeli courts for “harming religious sensitivities.”

  • 2000 “A’isha,” a play about Mohammad’s child wife by Moroccans, upsets some of the Muslim community.

    RESULT: Imans “convinced” the Moroccans to cancel the Rotterdam performance.

  • 2001 Afghanistan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar issues an edict against un-Islamic graven images, which means all humans and animals.

    RESULT: The Taliban destroyed all ancient statues with weapons, including two immense Buddhas, in Bamiyan Province.

  • 2002: “Offense” is a 15th century fresco in a church with an image of Muhammad in hell. Italian police disrupt a plot related to Al-Qaida to destroy the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, Italy.
  • 2002: Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Doug Marlette’s draws Muhammad on a Ryder truck with a nuclear rocket.

    RESULT: Marlette received thousands of angry e-mails from Muslims accompanied by threats of death and mutilation.


  • Theo van Gogh
  • 2004: Theo van Gogh produces and directs the film “Submission,” which criticizes the treatment of women in Islam and arouses great controversy in the Islamic community. Theo was related to Vincent van Gogh.

    RESULT: Mohammed Bouyeri murdered Van Gogh by shooting him eight times and attempting to decapitate him. He also left a note pinned to his body which threatened Western nations, Jews and the writer Aayan Hirsi Ali.

  • 2004-2011 Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali born Dutch writer and politician and critic of Islam, writes “Submision” film script.

    RESULTS: Receives death threats and goes into hiding permanently. Writes many books about her experiences and receives awards. Lives secretly in the U.S. and Netherlands and works for think tank “American Enterprise Institute”.

  • 2005: Rachid Ben Ali, a Moroccan Dutch artist, appears on the cover of a homosexual magazine after his 2002 art exhibit was critical of Islamic extremists and roused their wrath in the Netherlands.

    RESULT: Death threats on the street and forced seclusion. Politician Ahmed Aboutaleb supported him and was also threatened. Ben Ali has shown his work again but avoids Islamic commentary.

  • 2008: Shabana Rehman, a Pakistani born comedian in Norway, offends Muslims with jokes about suicide bombers, abuse and circumcision, posing nude, harassing men, kissing women and threatening to burn a Koran onstage.

    RESULTS: Death threats and her sister’s café is shot up, among other things. Rehman is still alive and considered a very influential figure in Norway.

  • 2005-2011: An ongoing uproar erupts when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten commissions 12 cartoonists to draw Mohammad. Most are respectful, a few aren’t.

    RESULTS: An Islamic cleric offers $250,000 for the cartoonists’ death; The United Nations, European Union and others pressure legal action; Ambassadors are recalled, boycotts and demonstrations occur; Danes, Swedes and Belgians are threatened worldwide and Palestinians threaten and kidnap westerners.; Jyllands-Posten apologizes but threats continue; Roman Catholic leaders and others apologize; Many artists are forced to hide and threatened personally; In 2008, Kurt Westergaard’s picture of Mohammad with bomb/turban incites the most hate; Three Muslims arrested planning to murder Westergaard; In 2010, a Somali Muslim enters his home but Westergaard escapes while police shoot the armed intruder.


  • Mohammad cartoon by Lars Vilks
  • 2007: Lars Vilks, Swedish artist, draws a dog with the head of Mohammad to create debate over free speech. Galleries wouldn’t touch it, but newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published a drawing.

    RESULTS: Death threats; The prime minister of Sweden grovels before ambassadors from 22 Muslim nations in apology; A $15,000 price is put on Vilks’ head; Vilks lives in hiding; In 2010, several attempts are made to kill Vilks; The first suicide bombing in Sweden strikes, over his cartoons; Vilks is assaulted while he ironically lectures on free speech; An attempt on Vilks’ life at Göteborg Biennial is made in Sweden on Sept. 11, 2011.

  • 2007: Bangladeshi Arifur Rahman is arrested over a cartoon cat named Muhammad.

    RESULTS: Militant Islamists demand his execution over blasphemy, newspapers are burnt and Rahman and editors are threatened.

  • 2008: “Surrend,” a group show of Danish artists at a Berlin Gallery, includes satirical pictures of both Jewish and Muslim subjects and ideological conflicts, and one photo of the Kaaba, in Mecca.

    RESULTS: Aggressive verbal attacks and threats. Gallery shuts down completely and needs police protection.

  • 2008: Gregorius Nekschot, a Dutch cartoonist and collaborator with murdered Theo van Gogh, creates a personal website critical of Islamic radicals with cartoons.

    RESULTS: He is arrested, his house searched by ten policemen, and computer and art work confiscated. Also interrogated and forced to remove cartoons from his personal website at the request of the public prosecutor for being discriminatory to Muslims. This is done in Europe, not, say, Somalia.

  • 2009: Egypt’s top comedian and actor, Adel Imam, offends famous Muslim televangelist Khalid Al Guindy, with his jokes and movies.

    RESULTS: A call for his assassination – or fatwa – came from Algeria after Imam criticized the Palestinian terror group, Hamas.

  • 2009-2011: Nike inadvertently “offends” Muslims over a logo that resembled Arabic for “Allah” but was intended to be fire.

    RESULT: The Council on American-Islamic Relations harassed them until they withdrew items from the market and agreed to erect 3 playgrounds for Islamic groups in the U.S. so no one would protest, riot, etc.


  • “Haram,” painting by Sarah Maple
  • 2008: British artist Sarah Maple (of Muslim descent) paints a woman in a headscarf holding a pig and explores gender and sexuality in the Islamic community.

    RESULT: Gallery windows smashed, death threats.

  • 2007: Sooreh Hera (pseudonym), an Iranian exile in Netherlands, photographs homosexual men wearing masks of Mohammad as a commentary on married men having affairs with other men in Islamic countries. She also creates images of clerics among naked men.

    RESULTS: Death threats, forced to remove museum exhibit and go into hiding.

  • 2008: Karen Swenholt from Virginia creates a 9-foot statue in memory of 9/11 victims off a highway and was left threatening notes that appeared to come from radical Muslims, which she calls “Taliban notes.”

    RESULTS: She was forced to remove the statue. Swenholt reported it as a hate crime, but police told her it wouldn’t work “because she was an American.”

  • 2008: Paul McCartney schedules a concert in Israel.

    RESULTS: Threats from Islamic militants, including Omar Bakri Muhammad, who said, “If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel.” Mr. McCartney was unfazed and went on with the concert.

  • 2008: Wikipedia is pressured to remove depictions of Mohammad from their website.

    RESULTS: Wikipedia has not reacted to a petition drive to stop them and does not intend on changing their entry.

  • 2009: Jytte Klausen, author of Yale Press’s, “Cartoons That Shook the World,” is pressured to remove many cartoons although they are the subject of the book.

    RESULT: Yale press gives in to pressure and pulls images of Mohammad and others on advice from counterterrorism experts, waning that the cartoons may “incite violence.”

  • 2010: Producers of “South Park” offend Muslims by depicting Mohammad in a bear costume.

    RESULTS: After many threats, they subsequently removed any reference to Mohammad.

  • 2010: Seattle artist Molly Norris has a great idea. “Everyone Draw Mohammad Day” will defuse problems started by the “South Park” episode and support free speech. A Facebook campaign goes viral with 32 events and 11,000 people planned to participate.

    RESULTS: Norris receives death threats and is on a hit list. Facebook is banned in Pakistan. The FBI helpfully suggests she go into hiding and change her name. She no longer has a career.

  • 2010: Jakub Rene Kosik, DJ and musician from Poland, releases “Mekka,” which has a background of a Muslim prayer.

    RESULTS: Overnight, Kosik receives 300 threats, including some from Muslim children, saying, “Die, dog.” Kosik apologized to each email personally and had to remove the song.

  • 2010: Lyricist Javed Akhtar, a non-Muslim from India, states his contempt for recent fatwas against working women by religious leaders.

    RESULTS: Akhtar received many death threats and was told to apologize. He pronounced the muftis “insane.”

  • 2010: Famed sculptor Nyoman Nuarta creates a huge sculpture, “Tiga Mojang” (Three Women) in Indonesia. The number “three” (such as the Trinity) and female forms make the work of art controversial there.

    RESULTS: It was torn down by a mob of angry Islamic fundamentalists.

  • 2011: The Metropolitan Museum in New York City is about to reopen its Islamic art section.

    RESULTS: The Met quietly removes all images of the prophet Mohammad for fear of upsetting anyone.

  • 2011: The controversial documentary, “Iranium,” is banned in Ottawa, Canada, due to pressure from Iran.

    RESULTS: The film is shown anyway, in Ottawa and York University in Toronto.

  • 2011: David Letterman jokes about terrorists on the “Late Show.”

    RESULTS: A jihadist website posts threats urging Muslims to kill Letterman and that “his tongue deserves to be cut.”

  • 2011: Australian glass artist Sergio Redegalli paints the outer wall of his studio with an anti-burka message. He believes in women’s rights and views the veil as repressive and extreme.

    RESULTS: Redegalli is besieged and threatened by Muslims and leftists (who for some reason wish to keep woman in burkas). He is labeled a “racist” and had to repaint his wall 40 times due to graffiti damage and paint bombs.


Anti-burqa message, Sergio Redegalli

There are other instances of artists being harassed or worse, but we have finite space here. The point, I think is made: Radical Islamicists are pressuring and threatening the art community on all sides and much of it has given in.

It’s easy to condemn artists and gallery owners in these cases, but they face very real repercussions. In Islamic countries and even in much of Europe, the legal system and authorities are not exactly on their side. I congratulate artists such as Sergio Redegalli, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Paul McCartney, who stand their ground for us all in this epic battle between cultural terrorists and artistic freedom.

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