A Moroccan artist on Wednesday suspended one of his works from a major arts festival in southern France after his projections of Islamic calligraphy onto a bridge nearly set off a riot when local Muslim youths saw pedestrians walking on the words.
Mounir Fatmi’s exhibit at the month-long “Printemps de Septembre” art festival in Toulouse was meant to be shown at weekends, when cordons would be in place to insure the projections could not be walked on, as this is considered blasphemous by Muslims.
But late on Tuesday the video, made up of stylised calligraphy of verses from the Koran and “Hadiths” (sayings) of the Prophet Mohammed, was projected – by mistake – onto the city’s busy Pont Neuf.
According to Toulouse Police, the reaction was rapid. Up to 80 young people, many called in from the city’s housing estates, gathered on the bridge to stop pedestrians from treading on the verses.
One woman was slapped after she accidentally walked onto the projection, police said, although some protesters claimed she had deliberately provoked them.
Police sent in a riot squad, but a local imam and representatives of the Muslim community went to the scene and successfully appealed for calm.