Christ-Like Bin Laden Image Draws Fire

An image of Osama bin Laden in a Christ-like pose with light radiating from his head is igniting debate in Australia where the piece is showcased in a prominent religious art competition.

Under the title of, "Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross," the "double vision" print depicts both Jesus Christ and Osama bin Laden depending on which side the viewer looks at the artwork, according to Reuters.

"It's really unfortunate people take liberties with the Christian faith they wouldn't take with other religions," said Glynis Quinlan, spokeswoman for the Australian Christian Lobby, which promotes Christian values and condemns the image.

The bin Laden print was among more than 500 artworks featured in the Blake Prize for Religious Art, and was included in the exhibition at the National Art School in Sydney.

Not only has the artwork offended Australia's mostly Christian population, but even the country's prime minister publicly criticized the piece.

"The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians," Prime Minister John Howard said to the Daily Telegraph on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the country's opposition Labor leader Kevin Rudd said, "I accept you know people can have artistic freedom, but I find this painting off, off in the extreme. I understand how people would be offended by it," he said.

Debate also took place online attracting some 400 comments on the Web site news.com.au.

"One could only compare Osama with Saddam or Hitler, but Jesus came to Earth not to terrorize, but to save mankind," wrote a blogger identified as Shirley.

The spokesman for the Blake Prize, the Rev. Rod Pattenden, defended the controversial image, saying the goal of the prize was to encourage discussion on spirituality in society.

The artist of the Christ-like bin Laden print, Priscilla Bracks, said she hoped audience might see her work as a juxtaposition of good and evil, and realize her concerns that some might revere bin Laden as a cult figure.

"I'm interested in having a discussion, and asking questions about how we think about our world and what we accept, and what we don't accept," Bracks told Australian radio.

The Blake Prize of $12,300 was awarded to Shirley Purdie for "Stations of the Cross" on Wednesday.