The
theft of art and tall tales from Islamic websites are not the sort of
thing you would expect to hit the Crikey bunker, but Patricia Piccinini
– older sister of the former Mrs Crikey and prominent contemporary
artist – has been quite shocked by developments over the past few
weeks.

In May, Patricia and her artist husband Peter Hennesey noticed a sharp uptick in the traffic through Patricia’s website, which now carries a front page explanation of what is quite a disturbing hoax.

Site
usage had surged from a healthy 150,000 page views in April to a record
950,000 in May. A quick look at the “top referrers” didn’t just show
Google and various art magazines or galleries, but also websites such
as Somalia Online.
A few days later they received the first email referring to the use of
one of Patricia’s works – a cropped image from the sculpture TheLeather Landscape – in a hoax. The hoax was posted on an Arabic language website www.alnilin.com and recounted the story of how a girl was transformed into an animal after throwing a copy of the Koran on to the ground.

Subsequent
emails have come in from places as diverse as Sudan, the US, UK,
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, indicating that the hoax has been
spread widely via email, websites, and the general media in the Muslim
world.

As you can see here,
the article and cropped image is still up on alnilin.com and has
generated a lot of discussion. Most of its readers seem just as
confused and sceptical as Patricia and Peter. Go here and you can see a fuller picture of the image, which includes a model of our eldest daughter Laura.

The stolen image is actually a sculpture of one of Patricia’s genetically-modified Meerkat creatures from her We Are Family
exhibition that was a big hit at the Venice Biennale in 2003. At the
launch at Federation Square in 2002, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
claimed the Meerkat “looked a bit like Paul Keating.”

That was
left field enough, but who would have thought that an unsuspecting
multitude of Muslims have now been told it’s what Allah does to little
girls who disrespect the Koran?

Peter and Patricia have been
unable to find out where the story started, but it may have originated
around the time that another image of Patricia’s was included in
myth-busting site Snopes.com, as you can see here. It’s time for Snopes to bust another myth.

Obviously,
Patricia is very disturbed that her image has been stolen and used in
this way without her knowledge and permission. However, how does that
message get conveyed to millions of Muslims? Patricia would love some
assistance in preparing an Arabic translation of her response for
visitors to her website who do not speak English. If anyone in the
Crikey army can help, please email [email protected].

Peter Fray

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