Danish Prophet Muhammad cartoonist Kurt Westergaard dies, aged 86

The illustrator was behind drawings of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked anger across the Muslim world.

During the last years of his life, Westergaard had to live under police protection at a secret address [File: Johannes Eisele/Pool/Reuters]

Danish artist Kurt Westergaard, infamous for drawing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked outrage around the Muslim world, has died at the age of 86.

Westergaard passed away in his sleep after a long period of ill health, his family told Danish newspaper Berlingske on Sunday.

The illustrator was behind 12 drawings published by conservative daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten under the headline “The Face of Muhammad”, one of which sparked particular anger as it showed the Prophet wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.

The Prophet Muhammad is revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam.

The cartoons went almost unnoticed initially, but after two weeks, a demonstration against them was held in Copenhagen and then ambassadors from Muslim countries in Denmark lodged a protest.

The anger then escalated into anti-Danish protests across the Muslim world in February 2006. Some of the demonstrations became violent. Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked and dozens of people died.

The events led to debate about Islamophobia and the limits of freedom of expression and religion in Denmark and beyond.

In 2015, 12 people were killed in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris, which had reprinted the cartoons in 2012.

Westergaard had been working at Jyllands-Posten since the mid-1980s as an illustrator and according to Berlingske the drawing in question had been printed once before but without sparking much controversy.

During the last years of his life Westergaard, like a number of others associated with the cartoons, had to live under police protection at a secret address.

In early 2010, Danish police caught a 28-year-old man armed with a knife in Westergaard’s house, where he was planning to kill him.

Source: News Agencies