A Moroccan artist on Wednesday suspended one of his works from a major arts festival in southern France after his projections of Islamic calligraphy onto a bridge nearly set off a riot when local Muslim youths saw pedestrians walking on the words.
Mounir Fatmi’s exhibit at the month-long “Printemps de Septembre” art festival in Toulouse was meant to be shown at weekends, when cordons would be in place to insure the projections could not be walked on, as this is considered blasphemous by Muslims.
But late on Tuesday the video, made up of stylised calligraphy of verses from the Koran and “Hadiths” (sayings) of the Prophet Mohammed, was projected – by mistake – onto the city’s busy Pont Neuf.
According to Toulouse Police, the reaction was rapid. Up to 80 young people, many called in from the city’s housing estates, gathered on the bridge to stop pedestrians from treading on the verses.
One woman was slapped after she accidentally walked onto the projection, police said, although some protesters claimed she had deliberately provoked them.
Police sent in a riot squad, but a local imam and representatives of the Muslim community went to the scene and successfully appealed for calm.
The projection was switched off, and after meetings with the mayor, an apology was made to the woman who was slapped.
“This was essentially one big misunderstanding,” Hassan Idmiloud, vice president of the Toulouse Muslim Association, told FRANCE 24.
Always is. Muslims misunderstand what it means to be free, to be humane. To be human.
Despite the intervention of the city’s Muslim leaders, Mounir Fatmi, who describes himself as “a Moroccan of Muslim origin”, decided to cancel the projection of his work on the Pont Neuf.
“The conditions which I agreed to for my work were not met,” he said in a statement. “The result was that my art was not seen properly and above all, it was misunderstood. I’d rather the projection was suspended.”
Fatmi added that the piece, called “Technologia”, was in fact owned by the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar.
“When it was shown there for the first time, just a few kilometres from Saudi Arabia, no one was shocked,” he said. “That people were shocked in Toulouse is astonishing. I just don’t get it.”
If you don’t get it now, you probably never will. End all immigration of those declaring themselves Muslim.