Is the Met afraid of Mohammed?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art quietly pulled images of the Prophet Mohammed from its Islamic collection and may not include them in a renovated exhibition area slated to open in 2011, The Post has learned.
The museum said the controversial images -- objected to by conservative Muslims who say their religion forbids images of their holy founder -- were "under review."
Critics say the Met has a history of dodging criticism and likely wants to escape the kind of outcry that Danish cartoons of Mohammed caused in 2006.
"This is typical of the Met -- trying to avoid any controversy," said a source with inside knowledge of the museum.
The Met currently has about 60 items from its 60,000-piece Islamic collection on temporary display in a corner of its vast second-floor Great Hall while larger galleries are renovated. But its three ancient renderings of Mohammed are not among them.
"We have a very small space at the moment in which to display the whole sweep of Islamic art," said spokeswoman Egle Zygas. "They didn't fit the theme of the current installation."
But it's not certain Mohammed will go on display when the Met finishes its $50 million renovation in 2011.
Three years ago, the Met changed its "Primitive Art Galleries" to the "Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas" for the sake of political correctness, said author Michael Gross, author of "Rogues' Gallery," a book about the Met.
Just recently, it decided its highly anticipated "Islamic Galleries" will be given an awkward new name ahead of the 2011 opening. Visitors will stroll around rooms dedicated to art from "Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia," according to a museum press release.
Islamic art expert Kishwar Rizvi said the Met -- which has one of the world's best Islamic collections -- has nothing to fear from Mohammed.
"Museums shouldn't shy away from showing this in a historical context," said Rizvi, historian of Islamic Art at Yale University.
Rizvi said it was "a shame" the museum dropped the word Islamic from the title.
"It's cumbersome and problematic to base it on nationalistic boundaries," the historian said.