Denmark Officials Fear ‘Martyr Museum’ Art Exhibit Glorifies Terrorism

An exhibit at the Martyr Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, displays photographs and information regarding suspected Brussels suicide bombers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui. The Sort/Hvid museum in Copenhagen's meatpacking district will display the artifacts as part of a larger exhibition intended to give spectators a glimpse into the minds of terrorists. Photo courtesy Sort/Hvid Museum/TOETT/Ida Grarup Nielsen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, May 4 (UPI) — An art exhibition scheduled to open in Denmark later this month is generating substantial controversy for what critics and at least one government official say is glorification — and even “encouraging” of terrorism, particularly among Danish youth.

The exhibition, called the “Martyrs Museum,” will showcase artworks of persons who died for certain causes. Among those included will be Brussels suicide bombers Ibrahim and Khaled el-Bakraoui and Paris attacker Foued Mohamed-Aggad.

Fearing that the art show might encourage further acts of terror, particularly among vulnerable and impressionable youths, a member of the Danish ruling party Venstre has reported the planned exhibit to authorities.

The exhibition will feature images of select martyrs, replicas of their personal belongings and plaques to detail their actions. Among the martyrs included in the exhibition are Joan of Arc and Socrates.

“I am outraged that they put an honorable socialist like Rosa Luxemburg in the same category as suicide bombers and terrorists,” Culture Minister Bertel Haarder told Politiken this week. “You might as well put them in the same category as freedom fighters.”

Haarder called the exhibition “insane” and Danish President of the Free Press Society, Katrine Winkel Holm, said it’s “perverse.”

Newsweek reported that one member of the Danish ruling party, Venstre, said on Facebook that such glorification of militants could radicalize Denmark’s youth and make them “take the last step and join a terror organization.”

Organizer Ida Grarup Nielsen, part of the artist group The Other Eye of The Tiger, though, defends the art show by saying that everyone is “the hero of [their] own story.”

“Our exhibition is really about describing the term ‘martyr’ from as many different angles as possible and through history,” she told Politiken, adding that the art seeks to give spectators a glimpse from the militants’ point of view.

Medical personnel aid victims of the shootings at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris on November 13, 2015. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI

Promotional materials described the exhibit as “reproductions of authentic objects, stories of heroism and pictures of martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in a larger service.”

“The exhibition will explore why some people will die for what they believe in,” the exhibit says on its official website. “Our fascination with heroic people is not a new phenomenon. We continue to wonder which motives that drives people to martyrdom. Do the martyrs of today differentiate from past martyrs, and what does it mean to die for your beliefs?”

Haarder rejected the notion that the art has value because it seeks to provide a glimpse into the minds of terrorists.

“No. Next [will be] that we must also try to understand them,” he said. “It should be condemned. I will not set foot in the exhibition.”

“With this exhibition they come to glorify suicide bombers … but there’s nothing to understand, it is evil to kill people in the name of God,” Holm agreed.

Officials say Ibrahim El Bakraoui detonated a suicide vest at Brussels’ Zavantem International Airport on March 22, and his brother Khalid detonated a similar device at a nearby rail station. They are accused of killing more than a dozen people with their explosions. The total death toll from the coordinated blasts is 32, with more than 300 wounded. Investigators say Mohamed-Aggad was among a group of attackers at the Bataclan music hall in Paris on Nov. 13. in coordinated attacks that killed 130.

“In Denmark, we have a hard time imagining dying for a cause. To fly into the Twin Towers, shoot people at the Bataclan or blow one’s self up in Brussels can one do, only with the belief that it will bring about a better world,” Nielsen said in a news release. “This is why we are opening a museum where these individuals are included in the exhibition. We are all heroes in our own stories,”

Alex Arendtsen, a member of parliament representing the Danish People’s Party, refuted claims that Islamic extremists qualify as “martyrs.”

“They are people we in the Christian world call killers,” he told Politiken. “Christian martyrs do not kill anyone. … It is not a martyr museum, but a murderer museum they are making.”

Arendtsen also said the exhibit shows how ignorant and unintelligent some artists and intellectuals can be.

“It is embarrassing that they buy this Islamic propaganda.”

The exhibition will run from May 26 to June 10 at the Sort/Hvid Museum in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district.


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