The Muslim world isn’t going to like this one bit. There’s an exhibit in a Colorado art gallery, which is stirring up outrage from observers who say it depicts Mohammad in a sexual act.
Enrique Chagoya's “The Misadventures of Mohammad” was initially created in 2003. It is a multi-panel piece in which "cultural and religious icons are presented with humor and placed in contradictory, unexpected and sometimes controversial contexts," the artist's publisher, Shark's Ink, said in a recent interview with Fox News.
The lithograph has been on display since, of all dates, Sept. 11 at the taxpayer-funded Loveland Museum Gallery in Loveland, Colorado. It is part of an 82-print exhibit by 10 artists who have worked with Colorado printer Bud Shark. It includes several images of Mohammad, including one with what appears to be explicit homosexual content.
Scores of protesters gathered outside the museum over the weekend to object to Chagoya's work, including one Loveland Councilman, who failed to get the issue on the council agenda. But, regardless, he said he'll keep pressing to have what he has called "smut" and "pornography" taken down.
"This is a taxpayer-supported, public museum and it’s family-friendly," another member of the city council told the Denver Post. She added, "This is not something the community can be proud of." Other critics said the piece is appallingly disrespectful and offensive to Muslims everywhere.
"It is visual profanity," an art gallery owner told the local Loveland newspaper. She added, "It disgraces the mightiest prophet of the God of all creation. He may have been a pedophile but he was not a homosexual. To say otherwise is pure defamation."
"In my work mentioned above I address the role of the Islamic religion among other religious groups imposing its credo on cultures all over the globe. I also critique Islam's position against same-sex marriage while allowing pedophiles to be reviled as prophets.”
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."