Chagoya said he's surprised by the response, saying there were no objections when the piece, which also includes comic book characters, Mexican pornography, Mayan symbols and ethnic stereotypes, was shown last year at a museum in Denver. “No one seemed to mind then,” he added. “I can’t understand the sudden outrage and intolerance towards satire.”
"My work is about the corruption of the spiritual by the institutions behind it, not about the beliefs of anyone. I respect people's opinions and I hope they respect mine," Chagoya said. "All I do is use my art to express my anxieties, with some sense of humor. Let’s agree to disagree, and long live our First Amendment.”
A local painter, who was part of a smaller group of counter-demonstrators outside the museum, said she agreed with Chagoya. "We have to be a country where freedom of expression thrives even if it offends the d-- Muslims," she bluntly told the local paper. “If you don’t like it you are probably stuck in the stone ages. When you manage to get running water get back in touch with me.”
The director of cultural services at the museum said the controversy has attracted people to the exhibit. The museum had over 600 visitors on Saturday, compared with an average of 75 and nearly 300 on Sunday, compared to the average 30 to 40, according to the local paper. "We invite everyone to come in, regardless of opinion, to write on a comment slip," she told the Reporter Herald.
Professor Chagoya, when asked whether he fears reprisals from Muslims, had this to say on Friday: “If you can’t understand satire – whether it mocks exalted professors or exalted prophets - then jump on the next camel and get the hell out of the country. This is America, not a Muslim theocracy."