Saturday, March 15, 2008

Denmark: Cartoonist vows to sell Mo-toon

Resigned to a life on the run.

“At my age,” he said from his police safe house last week, “you are not so much afraid any more.”

Westergaard has been moving from one safe house to the next with his moonbat kindergarten teacher wife but it's the auction houses that are looking fearful, declaring the sale of the drawing is "too hot to handle." The Interwebs may come to the rescue again.

A DANISH cartoonist whose drawing of the Prophet Muhammad sparked riots across the Muslim world wants to sell the original drawing “to make something out of a difficult situation”.

The small, ink cartoon is locked in a bank vault as Kurt Westergaard, 72, hides from Islamic militants who have vowed to kill him. The threats have made his life miserable but he puts a brave face on his plight.

“At my age,” he said from his police safe house last week...

“you are not so much afraid any more.”

His drawing, featuring a bomb in the prophet’s turban, is by far the most famous of a dozen “Muhammad cartoons” published three years ago by Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper Westergaard works for.

It could command great interest at auction. Auction houses, however, were voicing doubts about the wisdom of putting such a controversial item on sale.

“It’s too hot to handle,” said Franck Lombrail, an auctioneer in Paris. “It would represent a risk for the public at the sale,” he added.

Flemming Rose, cultural editor of the Jyllands-Posten, called the cartoon “a great cultural icon of the 21st century”, and thought it was only fair for Westergaard to make money out of it. Rose said that on a visit to America last year he had autographed posters of the cartoon collection, which had sold for £500 each.

Westergaard has been moving from one safe house to the next with his wife, a retired kindergarten teacher, since police foiled a plot to behead him in his home in November. Several Danish newspapers recently reprinted the drawing in solidarity with him, prompting fresh protests.

One option might be to put the cartoon up for sale on the internet. A less well-known Muhammad cartoon went for £1,500 in an internet auction.

Already Westergaard has had offers: on Tuesday, he received a letter from Martin McNally, who is serving life in America for hijacking an aircraft in 1972, offering to buy the cartoon.

“What is he planning to do with it?” asked Westergaard, an affable figure with a wry sense of humour. “Will he hang it up in his cell?”

Westergaard hopes that the cartoon is worth more than the £2,500 suggested by McNally. His wife, meanwhile, has proposed selling all of the Muhammad cartoons for £50,000 to “a rich Arabian oil sheikh” who could then burn them in Mecca. The cartoonists would get half of the money.

The rest would be donated to needy Muslims.

She thinks that is the best way of getting out of it,” said Westergaard, chuckling.

He seems resigned to a life on the run. “This will go on for the rest of my life, I am sure,” he said. “There is no way out.”

Westergaard says he has no regrets about the drawing, defending Denmark’s tradition of democracy and freedom of speech. He hopes the cartoon will remain in Denmark.

One likely buyer is the country’s royal library, which has been in talks with the cartoonists’ association about acquiring all the offending drawings.