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Icelandic Mosque Causing Headache in Venice

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Icelandic Mosque Causing Headache in Venice

Reykjavík mosque

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Authorities in Venice have sent the Icelandic Art Center a letter saying that police in the Italian city believe the Icelandic submission to the Venice Biennale is a “threat to safety”.

The letter is in possession of The New York Times and states that Venice police have concerns, among other things, about the location of the work.

The work in question is a mosque, currently being constructed, and created by Christophe Büchel. The mosque is described as “a headache” by Venice police.

The mosque stands near a pedestrian bridge over a canal and police believe it will be difficult to keep it under good safety surveillance—which will be necessary in their eyes due to the terrorist threat from extremists.

The New York Times reports that Büchel and Nína Magnúsdóttir, the exhibition leader, have sought legal advice in the matter and intend to continue with the construction.

Hamad Mahamed, who will lead prayers at the mosque, told the newspaper that it is an important project for the Muslim community. “It gives us the chance to show people what Islam is really about – and it isn’t the pictures shown in the media.”

A statement last month from the Art Center explained that the mosque will be in a derelict 10th century church. It is the first mosque in Venice and is being made in close cooperation with the Muslim community in Iceland and Venice.

Büchel says he had searched long and hard for partners to work with in Venice and that when he finally found the old church he was banned from making any changes to it at all on the outside.

The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday and remain open until the evening of Sunday November 22.

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