August 7, 2012
Lars Vilks* will speak at a conference in New York on September 11, 2012. The organizer is the anti-Muslim organization SION (Stop Islamization of Nations). Its founder says to have inspired Anders Behring Breivik. A representative of SION was recently in Stockholm to hold his first speech at “the first global meeting against Jihad and radical Islamism.”
According to Anna-Sofia Quensel, a researcher at EXPO (an organization which regularly reports on activities of the far-right extremists), SION has its roots in Denmark going back to 2005. Since then there have been a European and an American branch, but since the beginning of 2012 an international umbrella organization has been formed (SION).
”The organization is a part of the counter-jihad movement. Its members claim that an intricate Islamizing conspiracy is underway against the West. Among other things, they claim that a holy war is being waged against the West and our ideas,” says Quensel. It is from this milieu that Breivik retrieved much of his opinions. Robert Spencer, who is one of the initiators of SION, has been quoted over 150 times in Breivik’s manifesto, according to Quensel.
Quensel also points out that from the SION’s point of view, Lars Vilks is an important person. “He is often mentioned because he has been threatened for his drawings and installations. He will speak about freedom of expression and he is used as an example of what can happen and how freedom of expression is threatened.” According to her Lars Vilks is a figurehead for SION, and his presence at the conference will also put focus on Sweden. “He comes as one of those who has received death threats and will be used as such. It sends a signal to the entire movement that Lars Vilks actually shares their views so that becomes a powerful signal to the outside.” Moreover, according to Quensel, there is a great risk that Lars Vilks legitimizes the movement, regardless of his personal motives (to participate).
”This is anti-Muslim environment and a movement which is active in attempts to prevent an Arabic TV-channel’s broadcasting from the US. In this environment he (Vilks) chooses to speak about freedom of expression. Now, which signals this sends is a matter of interpretation,” says Anna-Sofia Quensel.
When DN (Daily News) contacts Lars Vilks he says that he is attending the conference to speak about his experiences. “This is above all a part of my art project where I include Al Qaida and Al-Shabab. When this organization (SION) contacted me they became a part of my project. They play a large role in the big drama about Islam, Muslims and fundamentalism.”
What does it mean for you that the organizers have expressed anti-Muslim views?
“They can have any opinion thet want in the name of the freedom of expression.” Cannot see that I play any significance in their situation. I want to have insight of the movement and how they think.”
EXPO (a racism watchdog organization) is of the opinion that your presence there contributes significantly to the anti-Muslim movement and that they will use this event to advertize (their views). What is your view on that?
”It is free to have any opinion you like, we should protect that.”
Do you think that other people can interpret (your presence at the conference) as you legitimizing them (the anti-Muslim movement)?
“Sure, we have freedom to interpret things differently. I have been exposed to various interpretations, so I’m used to it.”
Are you not concerned that you might add to the wrong interpretation of your (work), something that you usually mention?
“No, you have to shoulder that risk when you do art which touches upon suh a delicate issue. I will most likely create more enemies, but I’m used to it. People who do not want any nuances will view things in black and white.”
You have received much attention. Do you see all of this as a PR-stunt?
”No I can’t say i do. I have already received much attention even before,” yas Lars Vilks.
Signed: Fredrik Lennander
* Lars Vilks is a Swedish artist. He is best known for his defamatory portrayal (street installation) of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Vilks has characterized his own skill in the actual crafts involved in sculpture as quite limited, and although his artistic ideas can be seen as characteristic for his generation of Swedish conceptual artists, he has remained something of an outsider in the Swedish art scene for most of his career.