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Paris, David Chazan(AFP): An artwork depicting high-heeled shoes on Islamic prayer mats has been removed from an exhibition after a Muslim group warned of possible violence in the wake of the Paris attacks. Artwork showing women’s shoes on Muslim prayer mats is removed from exhibition after warnings of possible violence.
The French-Algerian artist, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, withdrew the work from an exhibition in a northern Paris suburb with a large Muslim population after an Islamic group told local authorities it could provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents”.
It is considered disrespectful to step on Muslim prayer maps with shoes.
Ms Bouabdellah has replaced the artwork, “Silence”, previously exhibited in Paris, New York, Berlin and Madrid, with a video installation showing belly-dancing to the French national anthem, with swirling red, white and blue shawls symbolising the national flag.
The decision sparked protests from other artists who complained that freedom of expression was being undermined only weeks after 12 people were killed when gunmen attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Another four people were killed at a kosher supermarket, and a policewoman was shot dead near a Jewish school.
Ms Bouabdellah, 37, said on Wednesday that the “lack of understanding” of her work was probably related to “heightened emotions” after the attacks.
“I’m left wondering at the reasons that push a certain fringe among French Muslims to see this work as blasphemous,” she said. “I’m from a Muslim background and my intention was not to shock or provoke, but to offer a vision as a starting point for a dialogue.”
The French artist Orlan, who also has a work on display in the all-female exhibition in Clichy La Garenne, expressed outrage.
“I protest against all pressures and/or threats that would result in a peaceful art work being pulled from an exhibition, be it due to a Christian group, a Muslim group, or a group of other beliefs,” she wrote in an open letter on Facebook.
Orlan said the removal of the artwork made a “mockery” of the principle of freedom of expression only weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attack and a huge solidarity march in Paris in which David Cameron and some 50 other world leaders took part.