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Lars Vilks: why some European artists are building panic rooms

Tolerant European societies are prosecuting 'blasphemers' of Islam. Does this leave artists like Lars Vilks more vulnerable to terror plots and attacks like the one allegedly planned by American ‘Jihad Jane’?

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Swedish artist Lars Vilks walked in the streets without protection in Stockholm on Wednesday. The Swedish artist who angered Muslims by drawing the prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog says he believes the suspects arrested in an alleged plot to kill him were not professionals.

Bertil Ericson/Scanpix/AP

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Why did Lars Vilks, a mild-mannered Swede who calls himself “the artist,” booby-trap his art with electrified barbed wire, keep an ax by his bedside, and build a panic room upstairs?

For one, Mr. Vilks’s 2007 cartoon of the prophet Mohammed as a stray dog continues to bring death threats and even a bounty on his head from an Al Qaeda-related group in Iraq.

But after US authorities on Tuesday arrested Colleen LaRose, a Philadelphia woman known on the Internet as Jihad Jane, for allegedly planning to travel to rural Sweden and assassinate Vilks, civil libertarians such as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley are pointing to another potential incentive for European artists to protect themselves: growing deference shown to Islam by European governments and journalists worried about stoking fanatical flames.

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