Mohammed cartoonist opposed to burning Koran
A Danish cartoonist who sparked Muslim outrage in 2006 with a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban said Thursday that burning the Koran, as planned by a US church, went too far.
"Satire is provocation. Picasso painted the town of Guernica after it was destroyed by German bombers (in 1937)," Kurt Westergaard told the Die Welt daily in Germany, where he won an award on Wednesday night.
"Provocation should lead to reflection, to enlightenment, to knowledge. In this case (burning the Koran), this is really not the case," the 75-year-old said.
Plans by US pastor Terry Jones's Dove World Outreach Center in Florida to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks by burning copies of the Koran have been met with outrage around the world.
Westergaard's cartoon depicting Mohammed with a turban with a lit fuse was one of a dozen first published in a Danish newspaper in 2005 that caused anger and violent protests the following year, and earned him death threats.
In January a Somali man allegedly broke into Westergaard's home and threatened to kill him with an axe and a knife.
In 2009 two men were arrested in Chicago allegedly with plans to attack his newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten.
Westergaard was presented on Wednesday with the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium international media conference's 2010 prize in Potsdam near Berlin, with Chancellor Angela Merkel making the keynote speech of the evening.
Merkel, who was criticised by the German Central Muslim Council (ZMD) for attending the event -- the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily called it a "big risk" -- defended the cartoonist.
Westergaard, who is under constant police protection, "is a cartoonist, of whom there are many in Europe. Europe is a place where a cartoonist is allowed to draw something like this," Merkel said.
"This is no contradiction that Europe is also a place where freedom of belief, of religion, where respect for beliefs and religions, are valuable commodities."
Merkel also slammed as "abhorrent" the burning of the Koran.
The Bild daily said that Merkel's decision to attend the prize-giving was her "bravest appearance." The Tagesspiegel daily said her appearance was "risky" but worthwhile.
Westergaard said the award was the "greatest recognition" that he had received.
© 2010 AFP