“McJesus” Statue Sparks Violent Clashes

[HyperAllergic] A new exhibition at the Haifa Museum in Israel featuring a sculpture of a crucified Ronald McDonald has sparked wide protest and violent clashes between members of the local Arab Christian minority and the police. The protestors demand the removal of the sculpture “McJesus(2015) by the Finnish artist Jani Leinonen, which they deem offensive to their religion.

Hundreds of protesters tried to storm the museum last Friday. Israeli police claim the protestors hurled rocks that wounded three officers, after a protestor threw a Molotov cocktail at the museum’s building on Thursday. A video from the demonstration shows that the police used tear gas and stun grenades to clear the protestors. Five were detained.

The controversial sculpture is part of the exhibition “Sacred Goods,” which examines the commodification of religion and the links between religious systems and consumer culture. Despite the ongoing protest, the museum refuses to remove the work on grounds of defending freedom of expression. Museum director Nissim Tal expressed his surprise at the uproar, which comes months after the opening of the exhibition in August last year.  “We will be defending freedom of speech, freedom of art, and freedom of culture, and will not take it down,” he said. Following a meeting with church leaders and local politicians, the museum agreed to install a curtain over the entrance to the show and post a sign that warns viewers of potentially offensive content.

Instagram user @wadie.abunassar created an assemblage of the offending works displayed in the Haifa Museum exhibition:

In a petition they filed at the district court in Haifa today (Monday), Greek Orthodox Church and Greek Catholic Church representatives demanded the removal of other controversial items on display, including artworks by the Argentinian duo Pool and Marianela which feature the crucified Jesus and the Virgin Mary as Ken and Barbie dolls. Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to church leaders, told the AP news agency, “We need to understand that freedom of expression is interpreted in different ways in different societies. If this work was directed against non-Christians, the world would be turned upside down.”

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[Editor’ Note: This article was written by Hakim Bashira and first posted at HyperAllergic]