The famous Saatchi Gallery in London has covered two nude paintings with the Shahada on it after Muslim visitors complained that the pieces are “blasphemous”.
The two paintings are part of a new exhibition by the artist SKU, which featured nudes covered with Arabic script, in a way that appears to imitate the U.S. flag – meant to represent the conflict between American and “Islamist extremists”.
According to The Times, the inclusion of the shahada – the Islamic testimony of faith – sparked a backlash, with Muslim visitors asking for the paintings to be removed from the London gallery.
Saatchi Gallery rejected demands to remove the artworks entirely, stating that visitors should be able to see the works and draw their own conclusions. The artist instead requested they were covered.
SKU said: “It seemed a respectful solution that enables a debate about freedom of expression versus the perceived right not to be offended.”
While the gallery said it “fully supported” freedom of expression as a fundamental right, it said: “the gallery also recognises the sincerity of the complaints made against these works and supported the artist’s decision to cover them until the end of the exhibition.”