“I’m insulted. Is it necessary to create blasphemy and hate in this way? One must be careful with art.” All right. So don’t go to the exhibition. Freedom of Speech Death Watch Alert: “Norway: Artist asked to remove Quran exhibition,” from Islam In Europe, March 20 (thanks to Paul):
At the Telemark county library in Ulefoss, an exhibition was promptly subjected to damage and the library asked the artists to remove it. It is now being shown in Porsgrunn.
The exhibition “Det er ikke forbudt Ã¥ tenke” (“It’s not forbidden to think”) was assembled at Porsgrunn library yesterday. In a series of 12 graphic images the artist, Ahmed Mashhouri, picked out the most controversial quotes from the Quran.
“My aim is not to insult anybody and their faith. It’s to get a better understanding of the laws found in the Quran. These laws perhaps fit better in the old days, but today they just seem inhuman. I hope that my works will be a wake-up for my dear coreligionists,” he says.
Mashhouri and his wife worked for human rights in Iran. They sought asylum in Norway and now live in Skien. The images were prepared in Norway and translated to Norwegian from Persian and English.
“In discussions people love to hear that such thing aren’t found in the Quran. We want to show that they actually do,” says Mashhouri.
When before Christmas the couple turned to the Telemark library in Ulefoss, they were invited to come.
On December 9th, the exhibit was assembled, but not many hours passed before there was a racket and two-three Muslim women attacked his images. Afterward he was contacted by the library and asked to remove the exhibition.
“I was disappointed, because I thought I was came to a country with freedom,” says Mashhouri.
Library head Lillian Nilssen says that they wanted to prevent trouble. “It became quite unpleasant. They almost attacked each other,” she says.
Asked if this wasn’t a form of censorship, the library head replied: “No, we couldn’t risk that the pictures would be destroyed and the police would perhaps have to be called in. We’re a small community. Since it would just have hung for two days, we asked him to remove it a day earlier.”
The exhibition isn’t mostly meant for Norwegians and Mashhouri doesn’t hope racist Norwegians will profit from his opinions.
“I want to show Muslims that there are negative things in the Koran too. I don’t wish to hurt anybody and here and there it’s necessary, temporarily, to advance. If just one begins to thinks, then it’s worth it,” says Mashhouri.
The images are posted on islamgraph.blogspot.com and Mashhouri wants people to have a discussion there.
Ahmed Mashhouri teaches in an introduction program for refugees in Skien. His class was invited to the exhibition in Porsgrunn and the images engendered strong feelings. A heated, but civilized, debate started up.
“I’m insulted. Is it necessary to create blasphemy and hate in this way? One must be careful with art,” thinks Abdulkadir Mohammed. He responded in particular to an image of Koran verses written alongside a woman’s bare breast.
Moustafa F. Jasim denies that images and quotes represent Islam.
“This was taken out of context. And the Quran was written many centuries ago. I don’t like extreme Islam. We must accept each other. After the debate about hijab in the police we need peace. We are all brothers,” he says.
They asked for an apology from the artist, but didn’t get it. Mashhouri was happy the images caused debate.
“None of the sentences are mine. They’re from the Quran. There are many different Muslims in the world, but people like Osama bin Laden use these sentences,” he says.
Before the exhibition the class spoke of freedom of speech and its practice in Norway.