A Pakistani art college has drawn outrage by publishing a series of paintings of Muslim clerics with homosexual undertones.
One titled “Call for Prayer” shows a cleric and a shirtless young boy sitting beside each other on a cot. The cleric fingers rosary beads as he gazes at the boy, who seductively stretches backward with his hands clasped behind his head….
A second painting shows the same cleric reclining in front of a Muslim shrine, holding a book by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho in one hand as he lights a cigarette for a young boy with the other. A second young boy, who is naked with his legs strategically crossed to cover his genitals, sits at the cleric’s feet.
The painting has caused particular uproar because verses from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, appear on the shrine.
Lahore’s National College of Arts shut down the Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture, which published images of the paintings, as well as pulled all the issues and fired the journal’s editorial board, according to the Associated Press.
But college staff have reported receiving anonymous threats, and a court is deciding whether to charge the college, the journal’s board and artist artist Muhammad Ali with blasphemy. A former head of the college says the rise in militantism has made Pakistan dangerous for artists: “You have gun-toting people out there on the streets. You don’t know who will kill you,” said Saleema Hashmi. “You know no one is there to protect you.”