Saturday, March 1, 2008

Stupid Stone - Muslim Threats To Berlin Art Gallery

Berlin art gallery Kunstverein Tiergarten closes exposition after muslim threats.
A group of muslims threatened a Berlin exposition with violence and stone throwing if they didn't
closed down an exposition from the Danish avant garde art movement "ZOG - Surrend"

The muslims simply have to learn to behave and accept that freedom of thought and freedom of speech are values of a civilized society where citizens they behave like civilized people.

Threats Prompt Berlin Gallery Closure

BERLIN (AP) — A Berlin gallery has temporarily shut an exhibition by a Danish satirical duo after a group of young men threatened violence over a poster showing Islam's most revered shrine, an official said Friday.

The poster depicting the Kaaba in Mecca was one of 22 by the Surrend group that went on show Feb. 22 at the German capital's Galerie Nord. The poster features the German words "Dummer Stein," or "stupid stone."

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of six young men came into the gallery, demanded the poster's removal, and said that "if that did not happen, violence would be triggered, stones would fly and there would be big trouble," said Ralf Hartmann, the art director of Kunstverein Tiergarten, the group responsible for the gallery.

The men were believed to be Muslims, but "we don't know more," Hartmann said. Police were looking into the matter, he added. The exhibition is "certainly not anti-Muslim, but anti-radical," Hartmann said. "As a basic rule," he said, "art should never be censored in any way."

Gallery officials decided to shut the exhibition until they have worked with city officials to guarantee visitors' security, Hartmann said. He said he hoped the show could reopen Tuesday.

The exhibition, titled "ZOG — Surrend," aims to attack neo-Nazi propaganda and an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory named ZOG — short for "Zionist Occupied Government."

The Kaaba poster also showed people walking around the cube-shaped shrine under speech bubbles containing the ZOG slogan.

Surrend consists of artists Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen. They are known for their stickers mocking political leaders and other figures around the world.

Egesborg told The Associated Press that the incident was "one of the first times that an art exhibition in a big gallery has been censored by the mob in the streets."

Egesborg said by telephone from Denmark that the poster was one of four that poked fun at neo-Nazi conspiracy theories that Jews control the world. "That theory also lives in the Arab world," he said.

The local government in Berlin's Mitte district said in a statement that authorities are examining "possible dangers" and working on a security concept in hopes of allowing the exhibition to reopen as soon as possible.

The president of Germany's Academy of Arts called for the defense of artistic freedom.

"Courts are open in Germany to those truly who feel hurt and want to assert their position," Klaus Staeck said. "Anyone who threatens self-administered justice puts himself outside our legal order and ... our society."

Denmark has been at the center of controversy surrounding cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered major protests in Muslim countries after they were published in a Danish newspaper in 2006.

Newspapers in the country reprinted one of the caricatures on Feb. 13 to show their commitment to freedom of speech after police said they uncovered a plot to kill the artist who drew it.

In Denmark, lawmaker Henriette Kjaer of the governing Conservative Party responded to the gallery flap by saying that "Muslims must accept that we have freedom of speech in Denmark and in the rest of the Western world."

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