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United Kingdom: Paintings stolen and vandalised; death threats received

27 February 2017
Artist Russell Haines received death threats after several of his works portraying people from a wide range of religious beliefs were stolen or vandalised.
Photo: Gloucester Cathedral/Wikicommons

 

Artist Russell Haines and members of the clergy of Gloucester Cathedral received anonymous death threats and accusations of blasphemy after several of Haines’ paintings, which were part of an exhibition held in the cathedral portraying people from a wide range of religious beliefs, were stolen or vandalised, reported The Guardian on 12 February 2017.

 

Haines told The Guardian:

I have no proof, but it is strange that of the four films we made, the ones that were taken were the two with a lot of Islamic content. I can’t prove it, but I know there are a lot of people who don’t like it. It is pure Islamophobia and racism at work. I have had threats, but most have been against the local vicar who helped me, Ruth Fitter. She has had some dreadful things sent to her.

Controversy over Haines’ ‘Faith’ exhibition began in January 2017 when one of the paintings was removed from the exhibition a day after a local imam was invited to the cathedral to sing the Muslim call to prayer, along with other faith practices like Buddhist chanting and Hindu dancing, as part of the launch, reported Gloucestershire Live on 19 January 2017.

Criticism over allowing the call to prayer to happen in the cathedral came in over social media in response to the posting of a video of the imam on the cathedral’s Facebook page.

Dean of Gloucester, the Very Rev Stephen Lake, said the exhibition was intended to “promote religious understanding” and stressed that the exhibition did not “take place in a sacred space”.

More than 1,000 people attended the exhibition’s launch, which included 37 expressionistic portraits of people of various faiths and filmed interviews with some of the subjects. The light and sound equipment used in the exhibition was also stolen or vandalised.

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