Kurt Westergaard, the 86-year-old Danish artist renowned for drawing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad that caused anger across the Muslim world, has died.
After a lengthy period of ill health, Westergaard died in his sleep, his family informed the Danish daily Berlingske on Sunday.
The artist was behind 12 drawings that were published in the conservative daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten under the title “The Face of Muhammad,” one of which caused outrage because it depicted the Prophet with a bomb-shaped headgear.
Muslims venerate the Prophet Muhammad, and any visual representation of him is prohibited in Islam.
The drawings were barely ignored at first, but after two weeks, a protest was organized in Copenhagen, followed by a protest by diplomats from Muslim nations in Denmark.
In February 2006, the outrage turned into anti-Danish demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Some of the protests became violent. Hundreds of people were killed when the Danish and Norwegian embassies were assaulted.
The incidents sparked a discussion in Denmark and abroad about Islamophobia and the limitations of freedom of speech and religion.
Twelve people were murdered in a 2015 assault in Paris on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had published the drawings in 2012.
Westergaard has been an artist for Jyllands-Posten since the mid-1980s, and according to Berlingske, the picture in question had previously been reproduced, although without any controversy.
Westergaard, like a number of others connected with the drawings, had to live under police protection at a secret location during the final years of his life.
Early January 2010, police in Denmark arrested a 28-year-old man with a knife at Westergaard’s home, where he was intending to murder him.