Danish Mohammed picture cartoonist dies

·2-min read

Danish editorial cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose image linking the prophet Mohammed with terrorism prompted protests across the Muslim world and sparked a debate about freedom of expression, has died.

He was 86 when he died on Wednesday, according to media reports.

The news was first announced on Sunday by Danish newspaper Berlingske, which cited his family.

He was said to have died after a long illness.

Westergaard became known globally when his cartoon of the prophet - depicting Mohammed wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb - were published in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

The image sparked Denmark's biggest foreign policy crisis since the end of World War II.

Four months after the publication, they triggered protests in multiple Muslim-majority countries, some of which became violent.

Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked and dozens of people died.

The cartoon controversy also led to diplomatic disagreements between Denmark and various other countries, with several calls for boycotts of Danish products.

The events prompted a debate about the limits of freedom of expression and religion in the country and beyond.

Not only is the depiction of Mohammed considered taboo by many adherents of the Muslim faith, but linking the religion's founder with terrorism was considered a step too far by many.

Westergaard was one of several cartoonists who responded to a call from Jyllands-Posten.

But his depiction of Mohammed with the bomb turban was met with the greatest outrage from Muslims.

"Kurt Westergaard's fight for freedom of expression cannot die with him," according to a statement from Jyllands-Posten.

Berlingske called him the "embodiment of freedom of expression in Denmark".

Politicians also praised Westergaard upon the news of his death.

Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the head of the populist Danish People's Party, tweeted that the cartoonist paid a high price for his support of freedom of expression.

Westergaard routinely referred to himself as an atheist.

"I want to be remembered as the person who fought for freedom of expression," he was once cited by Berlinske as saying.

"But there is no doubt that some people will remember me as a satan, who insulted the religion of a billion people."

Westergaard, a teacher who had worked for the conservative Jyllands-Posten newspaper since the 1980s, had to be accompanied by bodyguards from then on.

In 2010, he narrowly escaped an attack by a 28-year-old man who broke into his house with an axe.

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