On the evening of New Year’s Day, the Dane who drew the Mohammed cartoon was saved by his bathroom door, when he was attacked by a Somali extremist.   Kurt Westergaard, the 75-year-old cartoonist, was looking after his 5-year-old granddaughter, when the axe-wielding  Somali broke into his house.

Westergaard had little time to react.

He pressed an alarm button to summon police when the attacker entered the house … by breaking a window.  He did not have time to collect the child from the living room before locking himself into a “panic room”, a specially fortified bathroom. He said the assailant had shouted “swear words, really crude words” and shrieked about “blood” and “revenge”, as he smashed the axe in vain against the bathroom door….

The attacker, who was also carrying a knife, shouted, “I’ll be back”, before going outside to confront police. He smashed a police car window with the axe and was shot in the hand and a knee when he threw the axe at an officer.

So far, they’re 0 for 2: both Salman Rushdie and Kurt Westergaard are still alive.

Yet, one cannot adequately imagine the fear that Mr. Westergaard must have felt, knowing that his granddaughter was alone in the house with that terrorist, or the ongoing, corrosive tension from living under such threats.

And one can be sure that self-censorship occurs, out of fear of arousing these crazies.   Newspapers and academic journals refuse to print the Mohammed cartoons, in articles about those very cartoons.

The axe-wielding Somali is a grim reminder that we start a new year still facing the lamentable choice between running the risk of attacks from Muslim extremists or constricting our freedom of expression.  I really wish that I had more confidence that our government is serious about protecting our freedoms.

Link: Panic room saved artist Kurt Westergaard from Islamist assassin – Times Online.