The Muslim prophet Mohammed and his son-in-law walk into a gay bar. No, it’s not the set-up for a joke, it’s the plot of Iranian artist Sooreh Hera’s latest film. And if you’re Lars Vilks (the Swedish cartoonist who controversially depicted Muhammad as a dog in 2007), showing the film might not get you a laugh so much as a head-butt.
Vilks recently showed Hera’s film while speaking about artistic freedom at Uppsala University and the film caused a small riot. One student came up and head-butted Vilks so hard that it broke his glasses. Others began chanting “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is great’) and rushing the dais, causing security to tackle several and keep others at bay with pepper spray. The university said they probably won’t invite Vilks to speak again.
Hera made her film to expose the hypocrisy between homosexuality and Islam. According to her, married Muslim men in Iran and Saudi Arabia frequently sleep with other guys even though homosexuality can still get you imprisoned, whipped, or even publicly executed. So she invited gay two Iranian exiles to conceal their identities by wearing masks of Muhammed and his son-in-law Ali and then suggestively posed them.
One of her other films, Allah Ho Gaybar, showed pictures of kissing Muslim clerics, naked men at Pride parades, and gay Holocaust prisoners set to Electric Six’s Gay Bar. The Hague Municipal Museum refused to include her work in a public exhibition because they feared it “could offend certain groups.”
Since then the 34-year-old director has received numerous death threats with a few e-mails even threatening to burn her naked and put a bullet in her mouth. Sooreh Hera isn’t even her real name; it’s an alias to protect herself and her family.
The backlash against Vilks and Hera’s art reminds one of the recently cancelled productions of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi. Putting religious figures in gay situations seems to piss people off even though it’s the most direct way to engage religious/sexual hypocrisy.