Organizers of the Icelandic entry to the Venice Biennale say they fear protests today, following a campaign encouraging locals to boycott Iceland and Icelandic products and calling upon the Icelandic government to apologize.
“People are really scared of protesters at prayers this morning. Many want to remove themselves from it and not turn up,” Sverrir Agnarsson, head of the Association of Muslims in Iceland, told Vísir from Venice.
Posters have appeared around the Italian city encouraging people to boycott Iceland for having “Disrespected and desecrated a symbol of our Christianity, culture and historical memory by installing a mosque in the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia.”
Sverrir says the backlash is based on a fundamental misunderstanding about the building which houses the Icelandic mosque: namely that it is not a church any more. Having been deconsecrated in 1973, it has had various uses since then, including as a warehouse.
Furthermore, the mosque is touted as an art installation. It is a replica of a mosque, not a real mosque, and will be totally removed in November at the end of the Biennale.
Sverrir agrees with the protesters on one point, saying it is important for the Icelandic authorities to comment on the criticisms. He says the Icelandic consulate is already fielding a lot of calls.