The “safe space” people have struck again at another Ontario university campus.
Monday night, an untitled, anonymous piece of art hanging in a student show at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in downtown Toronto was quietly removed.
It was a green Islamic prayer mat with the black outline of a nude woman on it.
In its place is a notice, apparently from the curators and jurors of the show, saying that absent knowing “the intent of the work that was previously hanging in this space,” they had decided to “remove it temporarily … until a statement from the artist can accompany it.”
The notice referred to “the concerns of a number of OCAD University student groups” and offered a one-two apology if either the original inclusion of the piece or its removal “has caused anyone harm.”
The formal complaint came from the Muslim Student Association at the school, which over the weekend issued a statement with several demands — the immediate removal of the piece, an investigation into how it was approved and “whether this was done out of ignorance or not” and an official apology from the university “that this piece was approved for display.”
“As a Muslim community,” the statement said, “we feel greatly offended, concerned and disappointed.
“This has already provoked Muslims and has caused very upsetting reactions, and several students’ responses and behaviour towards this is extremely alarming and is starting to make some students feel unsafe at OCAD.
“This is serious and we do not take it lightly.”
In a private, members-only Facebook group for OCAD students, the piece was immediately a lightning rod for controversy after the show, titled Festival of the Body, opened last Friday.
It sparked a spirited debate, sharp rebukes (and much apparent after-the-fact deletion of controversial posts) from the group moderators, one of whom snapped at one point, “This group was doing fine until these recently violent posts by some of you.”
Members of the group say dozens upon dozens of comments were arbitrarily deleted if they weren’t supportive of the decision to remove the piece.
Of those that remain, only one could be remotely described as violent, and it comes from a supporter of removing the prayer mat artwork.
He is a student who works part-time as a cab driver and who asked, “why does someone need to disrespect a whole religion and the way of life of billions of people?” He said the “intent” of the artist didn’t matter.
“… The intent does not change the blatant disrespect to our Islamic faith and the objects, places and symbols we hold dear to our heart.
“Picking up customers in my taxi that swear I hate them and want to kill them simply because I am Muslim or having my mother or my sisters followed and abused for wearing the hijab makes me live a certain anxious and protective lifestyle.”
Blatchford should have started her article this way: “The Muslim, sharia supremacists have struck again.”