Sweden: University cancels Vilks lecture

Islam in Europe - 26 April 2010

Artist Lars Vilks was invited by Jönköping University to speak about freedom of speech. But the seminar was canceled for security reasons. "I've understood that Muslim students protested," says Lars Vilks.

The politically independent Foreign Policy Association at Jönköping University was forced to cancel a lecture with controversial artist Lars Vilks.

Vilks, who's known in the Middle East for his cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, was supposed to come to Jönköping on Thursday. But yesterday he was told that association canceled the lecture.

Due to the security risk, the International Business School, the Culture Center and Hotel Victoria, all refused to offer their premises.

"First we asked if we could have the event elsewhere instead of at the school, but we got the same answer from everybody that it's the main reason," says Johan Nordberg of the non-profit association.

Have there been any threats?

"We haven't received any direct threats at all, neither did Vilks. But we've heard angry voices, but it's well in the lecture's nature that it will be so."

Lars Vilks definitely thinks that Muslim students are behind the protests.

"We've seen it on Facebook. There's an option there to discuss the lecture and we saw that there was an agitated discussion with many Muslim students. Several strongly rejected [it] and thought the all thing was idiotic."

"I think it was the organizers who didn't want to have it," says Lars Vilks.

According to Johan Nordberg they've had continuous contact with the police in Jönköping before the lecture Lars Vilks was suppose to give. The lecture was about freedom of speech.

"Our purpose was to have a debate on an international level, so it's clear that it's unfortunate. We will see if we can do anything in the future. Still we tried until the very end," says

Lars Vilks is constantly guarded by Säpo (Swedish Security Service) and as recently as Wednesday was on a visit to Malmö for a similar event. He thinks it's unfortunate that his seminar had been canceled.

"Evidently somebody pressured the organizers and thinks that it will be xenophobic and racist. It's actually ironic that a seminar on freedom of speech should be censored."

Sources: Jnytt (Swedish), Wikipedia (English), h/t Fria Nyheter (...)