In 2007, Swedish artist Lars Vilks drew a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, with the intention of examining political correctness in art. He received international condemnation and death threats. Yesterday, he was attacked. Enough already.
Vilks should not be confused with Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who drew a cartoon of Muhammad in 2005 and has been a target of murderous fanatics ever since. Vilks drew his cartoons—which are really pretty fucking innocuous, if you give them a chance to sink in—two years later, knowing what had happened to Westergaard. Which gives him a bit more moral heft. ("The self-described atheist said he is an equal-opportunity offender who has sketched a depiction of Jesus as a pedophile.") Whether you like the cartoons or not is not the point. The point is that freedom of artistic and political expression is a cornerstone of a free society, and allowing violent attacks by religious fanatics upon people whose political or artistic actions upset said fanatics is one of the most corrosive phenomena that can take place in a free society. That is what the KKK did; that's what the Taliban does; and that's what the people who head-butted Lars Vilks "as he spoke about the limits of artistic freedom" yesterday did.
The fact that so many American media and academic institutions have caved into the imagined fear of such religious fascists is shameful. If the free societies of the world can't stand up for a person's right to draw a fucking cartoon without becoming the victim of a multinational assassination plot, well, we lose. And if people's faith in their god is not strong enough to allow them to laugh off and dismiss an offensive little drawing, they lose. So let's all get along, or we all lose.