A Little Ancient History Rehearsed

For The Record — just to keep track of cartooning events that have a continuing implication worldwide —  last winter, in Copenhagen, on February 14, a lone gunman opened fire in a cultural center, killing one person and wounding others, then went on to kill a Jewish security guard at a synagogue. It is widely supposed that the gunman, a 22-year-old Muslim born in Denmark of Pakistani parents, was inspired by the slaughter on January 7 in Paris of a dozen Charlie Hebdo staff members, whose offense was drawing and publishing cartoons of Muhammad in the satirical magazine.

The Danish gunman apparently had the same agenda: his attack on the cultural center was prompted, it seems, by a seminar being held there on freedom of speech and expression, instigated by Lars Vilks, a cartoonist (he says) who made himself famous in the aftermath of the 2006 Danish Dozen by drawing Muhammad as a dog; and, like the second wave of Paris terror, the Copenhagen shooter then assaulted a Jewish target.

Like the Charlie Hebdo staffers, Vilks had insulted the Prophet and therefore deserved to die.

Danish police tracked the gunman and during a shootout at a train station shot and killed him. Later, it turned out he had a criminal record, mostly for possession of firearms, and had probably, like the Charlie Hebdo killers, been radicalized while serving time in a prison.

“Once again, we are reminded there’s a very brutal war going on right under our noses,” Robert T. Russell, executive director of Cartoonists Rights Network International, told Michael Cavna at the Washington Post’s ComicRiffs. “Many of the same questions will be raised that we all discussed after the Charlie Hebdo killings.

“Once again, we’ll most likely come to the same conclusions: freedom of speech and the freedom to express one’s self without fear of retribution continues to be the best pathway to a more tolerant world,” continued Russell, whose Virginia-based organization is running a crowd-funding campaign to defend “the creative and human rights of cartoonists under threat throughout the world.”

“My heart,” Russell said, “goes out to the person killed in this attack in Copenhagen, and the family that will now try to cope with actions of people who only understand hate.”

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