A New York City college is under fire for displaying and helping to sell the artwork of Guantanamo Bay detainees who are suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, reported the New York Post.
The Department of Defense is demanding John Jay College — a taxpayer-funded institution — destroy the artwork.
The exhibit consists of 36 paintings and sculptures titled “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo Bay” and is displayed for free on the college’s Upper West Side campus. A catalog about the exhibit includes instructions on how to buy the artwork but fails to mention the background of the artists, one of whom is suspected of working for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
The display was facilitated by the detainees’ lawyer Ramzi Kassem, a professor at CUNY School of Law. Kassem told The Miami Herald because of the controversy over the exhibit, future “art would not be allowed out of the prison…and would be incinerated instead.”
Previously, artwork made by Guantanamo Bay detainees was released to their family members after it was approved for transfer by prison authorities.
Curator Erin Thompson is quoted as saying, ”They created this art under strict regulations. They cannot produce violent images or anything that might contain a hidden message. Every blank sheet of paper…had to be inspected and cleared for use.”
Families of 9/11 victims expressed outrage over the exhibit. “I can’t understand how this college in particular would allow such a thing. Where’s their decency? Where’s their dignity?…It’s denying and softening what happened. What’s next, hanging up the art of John Wayne Gacy?” said Michael Burke speaking to the Post.
Burke’s brother, Capt. Billy Burke of the New York Fire Department, lost his life in the 9/11 attack and was a graduate of the college.