God may not be great, but, obviously, some gods are greater than others.
The Danish cartoons were published more than two years ago as a reaction to widening self censorship in the West when dealing with Islam. Back then critics insisted that I and Jyllands-Posten exaggerated the problem.
Well, we are now witnessing one case of self censorship after the other, and the problem is so obvious that artists are on the verge of recognizing it. Recently the British artist Grayson Perry admitted that he is going after any religion except Islam because he is afraid of having his throat cut. In Sweden artist Lars Vilks is in hiding because he insists on treating the prophet of Islam as he treats any other religious figure or symbol, and due to his insistence on equal treatment he has been censored by several art institutions in Sweden. Usually Swedish media is staying away from any controversial matter, but they have expressed outrage in their defense of Vilks.
Today the NIS News Bulletin in Holland reports that the Municipal Museum of the Hague has decided to remove a number of items by the Iranian artist Sooreh Hera. The museum were to exhibit pictures of two gay men wearing masks of the prophet Mohammed and his son Ali. In a majority of Islamic countries homosexuality is a criminal offense punished by death.
Last Friday musuem director Van Krimpen insisted that he would not submit to pressure and censor the photos.
”I am not guided by any political criteria. I will not be stopped by possible security risks. I simply find this an exceptional work,” Van Krimpen said, defending his decision to put the pictures on display.
But this week he changed his mind explaining that ”certain sections of society found them offensive”.
One of the key functions of art is to provoke, to challenge well established truths and perceptions, and therefore art quite often turn out to be offensive. I can only imagine what the history of art and literature would look like if we were to erase from our legacy pieces of art that ”some sections of society” find offensive.
The artist herself have no illusions about the motives of the museum.
”Muslims have threatened the museum. But the museum is not willing to admit that this is the reason why they do not want to exhibit the works,” Sooreh Hera said.
She feels sure that fear is the driving force behind the museum’s decision.
The Socialist Party on the city council of The Hague wants Hera’s photos on display December 15 as planned by the museum. They intend to ask the museum what kind of security concerns need to be satisfied in order to put the photos on public view. So far the Dutch parliament has kept silent, while the artist is considering the removal of all her work from the museum.
”The only conclusion I can draw is that Allah is indeed very great in the Netherlands and that fear rules.”