Well, it seems the media attempt to stir up drama over the 2007 Blake Prize was a bit of a fizzer. When images were released depicting Mary in a burqa and Jesus morphing into Osama Bin Laden a collective yawn went out from Australia’s religious leaders.
The Muslim response
Ikebal Patel, President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said: “[Mary wearing a burqa is] no different to how our mothers and sisters are expected to be modest in their dressing” And on the Jesus images, where he was offended, it was for the sake of Jesus, not Osama, “You have a revered prophet of Islam being equated to somebody like Osama bin Laden.”
The Christian response
Robert Forsyth, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, wisely advised: “You need to limit the language of outrage to things that are really outrageous”
George Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, thought it was overly predictable, saying: “Unfortunately, some contemporary art is tedious and trivial. These couple of works demonstrate this … Regrettably, attempts to insult Jesus and Mary have become common in recent years, even predictable … Too often it seems that the only quality which makes something art is the adolescent desire to shock … If this is the best the Blake Prize can do, it has probably outlived its usefulness.”
I applaud the leaders of both faiths for refusing to rise to the bait. Now, if only we could encourage our Prime Minister John Howard to let religious leaders speak for religious communities eh?
See the “That’s Osama Art Controversy” for more.