When asked following the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in which 12 were killed, the V&A said it didn’t have any images of Mohammed.
A US expert, however, later provided a link to a poster by an Iranian artist in the museum’s collection, with the inscription “Mohammed the Prophet of God.” The page was deleted last week, but can still be found in a cached version.
“Unfortunately we were incorrect to say there were no works depicting the prophet Mohammed in the V&A’s collection,” the museum’s spokeswoman, Olivia Colling, told the Guardian.
“As the museum is a high-profile public building already on a severe security alert, our security team made the decision that it was best to remove the image from our online database (it remains within the collection).”
However, similar images have been displayed around the world without provoking outrage or violence.
In 2013, the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam showcased a contemporary Iranian image of Mohammed, hung next to a Christian icon. The museum didn’t receive a single complaint for the exhibition.
“These images are a real eye-opener, a powerful example of Islam being different and more diverse than many imagine,” Mirjam Shatanawi, the Tropenmuseum’s curator for the Middle East and North Africa, told the Guardian.
“If Muslims feel offended by images made by other Muslims out of reverence for the Prophet, I’m not sure if the museum should decide not to show them. It seems like choosing one interpretation of Islam over the other. These images are not made to disrespect but – on the contrary – to honor the Prophet,” she added.
In 2007, the British Library displayed an image of the Prophet, but with his face veiled, in its Sacred exhibition.
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Tarik Kafala, who heads the channel’s Arabic arm – the largest non-English news service in the organization, said “terrorist” was too politically loaded to describe the perpetrators, who attacked and killed 17 people, including 12 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists earlier this month.
Speaking to the Independent, Kafala said: “We try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist or an act as being terrorist. What we try to do is to say that ‘two men killed 12 people in an attack on the office of a satirical magazine’. That’s enough, we know what that means and what it is.”
“Terrorism is such a loaded word. The UN has been struggling for more than a decade to define the word and they can’t. It is very difficult to. We know what political violence is, we know what murder, bombings and shootings are and we describe them. That’s much more revealing, we believe, than using a word like terrorist which people will see as value-laden,” he added.
While Kafala received criticism from other commentators on social media, the sentiment does fall in line with the BBC’s editorial standards, which apply throughout the organization.
“The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber,’ ‘attacker,’ ‘gunman,’ ‘kidnapper,’ ‘insurgent,’ and ‘militant,’” the guidelines say.
“We should not adopt other people's language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”
BBC Arabic is part of the World Service, paid for by British tax payers, although its broadcasting is geared towards countries outside the UK. According to official figures, the branch has a weekly audience of around 36 million people.