Three years ago, the Italian government made a shameful decision. It veiled its antique Roman statues to avoid offending Iran’s visiting President Hassan Rouhani. Nude statues were encased in white boxes. A year earlier, in Florence, another statue featuring a naked man in Greco-Roman style had also been covered during the visit of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Now, one of the most famous British art galleries has covered two paintings, after Muslim complaints that they were “blasphemous“.
At the Saatchi Gallery in London, two works, again featuring nudes, this time overlaid with Arabic script, prompted complaints from Muslim visitors, who requested that the paintings be removed from the Rainbow Scenes exhibition. In the end, the paintings were covered with sheets. “The Saatchi is behaving like Saudi Arabia, hiding from public view artworks that blaspheme against Islam”, commented Brendan O’Neill on Spiked. One expert described the paintings as “The Satanic Verses all over again“. The reference was to the book by Salman Rushdie, a British citizen, published in 1988. Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 condemned Rushdie to death for writing the book. The bounty on Rushdie’s head was increased to $4 million in 2016 when a group of Iranians added $600,000 to the “reward” — with no protest from Britain.