NEW YORK — Concerns are being raised over the inclusion of a Saudi Arabian flag sculpture in a “Candy Nations” temporary art display that surrounds the grounds of the World Trade Center. The display was meant to represent the nations that were a part of the G20 summit, and the Saudi Arabian flag traditionally includes the Islamic Shahada as it is the motto of the country.
The outlet Observer first brought attention to the text on the sculpture, which is shaped to look like a piece of wrapped candy, and features in Arabic the recitation, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet.”
All of the 20 nations represented in the exhibit have their country’s flag painted as the wrapper, hence the name of the exhibit being “Candy Nations.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced the creative display last month.
“This special art exhibit continues our ongoing efforts to provide a strong bond between the World Trade Center campus and the Lower Manhattan community, and advance our mission of making this campus a dynamic hub for creative, cultural and community activities,” Executive Director Rick Cotton said in a statement.
The sculptures are the work of French artist Laurence Jenkell, and have been displayed in 25 countries. They will remain on display in New York through the end of February.
“I first created flag candy sculptures to celebrate mankind on an international level and pay tribute to people of the entire world,” Jenkell told the Observer.
However, it is not the exhibit itself that has raised concern, but the current location of it. It is an issue of sensitivity, some state, and is therefore not wise to include the Saudi Arabian flag, complete with its “no god but Allah” motto, in a display at Ground Zero.
“Seriously?!? Did no one foresee this as an issue? Show some respect!” one commenter wrote under a tweet from the Port Authority.
“My brothers and sisters on the FDNY died saving lives Islam took on 9/11 and you do this? Despicable!” another remarked.
“I know it’s G20 and all, but putting the Saudi flag in there, given its human rights record and that the perps of 9/11 were Saudi, it’s in bad taste,” a third opined.
Jenkell says that she understands, and had thought of asking for the exclusion of the country from the presentation due to the location, but concluded that there was no way around the matter as Saudi Arabia was a part of G20.
“Given the unique and justified sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center, it came to my mind to propose to remove the sculpture showcasing the flag of Saudi Arabia, or relocate it to a less sensitive location,” she stated. “But there is no way I can do such a thing as the flag of Saudi Arabia is entirely part of the G20 just like any other candy flag of this Candy Nations show.”
Update 1/16/19: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has announced that it will relocate the entire exhibit this week. “We believe this solution respects the unique sensitivities of the site and preserves the artistic integrity of the exhibit,” it told reporters.