What happens when you display "Forbidden art"
By A.O. & E.L. - THE ECONOMIST
Updated: Mon, 12 Jul 2010 22:01:39 UTC
Thanks to Michael for the link
IT WAS bad enough that an art exhibition attracted the attention of Russia's criminal-justice authorities. It was worse that the exhibition was in Moscow's Sakharov centre and museum, one of the few institutions in Russia that stands squarely behind the tradition of human rights, exemplified by the saintly physicist and dissident for whom it is named. Now prosecutors have said that they want the organisers of the 2007 "Forbidden Art" exhibition, the director of the centre, Yuri Samodurov, and Andrei Yerofeev, an art historian (both pictured), to be sentenced to a three-year jail term for "debasing the religious beliefs of citizens and inciting religious hatred". Many say that the exhibition's real crime was to highlight the overlap between official orthodoxy and the religious version.
The prosecutors' move has aroused a furious reaction from the dwindling ranks of Russia's intelligentsia, and in the non-Kremlin media. In an open letter to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Mr Yerofeev apologises (link in Russian) for unintentionally hurting believers' feelings, but also blasts the church for teaming up with hardline officials and rightwing extremists. Which, of course, was one of the messages of the exhibition.
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Video via Atheist Media Blog
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But in the real world where societies are plural, then it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. And we should deal with those clashes rather than suppress them. Important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society.