Bin Laden as Christ Stirs an Uproar Down under; Australian Art Exhibition Angers Critics

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

Bin Laden as Christ Stirs an Uproar Down under; Australian Art Exhibition Angers Critics


Byline: Joseph Curl, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SYDNEY, Australia - Down Under has been thrown for a loop with a small art exhibition in which two Australian artists depict Christian religious icons with Islamic overtones, including one image portraying Osama bin Laden as Jesus Christ.

The "lenticular image" piece, titled "Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross," appears to be a beatific portrait of Christ, but if viewers move a few feet to one side, the image morphs into the face of bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the United States.

The mass murderer is shown in the same saintly pose as Jesus; eyes lifted toward the heavens, face aglow, a small halo above his head.

The artwork, one of more than 600 entries in the Blake Prize for Religious Art, appeared just days before President Bush arrived here yesterday to meet with one of his staunchest allies in the U.S.-led war in Iraq: Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Like his former British counterpart, Tony Blair, Mr. Howard has plummeted in the polls over his support of the Iraq war, and he trails his opponent by nearly 20 points with an election two months away.

Mr. Bush is not too popular here, either. An opinion poll released yesterday found 52 percent of Australians thought he was the worst president in U.S. history.

Hundreds of protesters turned out last night for a Stop Bush 2007 rally, and the hotel housing the president, the InterContinental, looks like the Green Zone in Baghdad. A 10-foot-high security fence rings the downtown, and more than 5,000 police and troops are patrolling the city.

As in the United States, a majority of Australians oppose the war, and thousands are expected to protest over the next few days as Mr. Bush attends an Asian economic conference. Some Australians think the United States is persecuting Muslims, and one art patron yesterday said the bin Laden portrait conveys a powerful message.

"Well, people are obsessed with both, Christ and bin Laden; there's no difference," said a young art student who identified herself only as Dominique. Standing under the picture hanging high on a wall in the National Art School exhibition hall, she said the piece is intended to be viewed as "a comparison of fundamentalism."

However, Sydney is a religiously tolerant city and is exhibiting its freedom during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit here. Members of Falun Gong, the Chinese religious sect that claims persecution by the communist government, spent yesterday doing their rhythmic exercises in Hyde Park.

Nearby, the Art Gallery of New South Wales highlights its showing of "The Arts of Islam," while Muslim girls in veils play in the sun on a grassy hill across from the museum. …

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