Graphic Isis exhibition branded ‘grotesque’ and ‘profiting from misery’

The display, which includes many before and after images of the victims, was installed in the private Gloucestershire crime museum owned by Andy Jones

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The Independent Online

The creator of a museum exhibition that includes photographs and videos of Isis extremists beheading victims in Iraq and Syria has been accused of profiting from their deaths and potentially stirring up trouble for Muslims in Britain.

The display, which includes many before and after images of the victims, was installed this week in the private crime museum owned by Andy Jones, which is housed in Littledean Jail, a former prison in the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire.

It was condemned by Keith Vaz, a senior Labour MP, who said that it would cause anguish to the victims’ families and it “should be looked at by the authorities”.

“This is grotesque and I urge the owner not to open the exhibition,” he told Sky News. “The owner should think again and save himself and the relatives of those who have been the victims of Isis the anguish that this will cause.”

Mr Jones defended his decision to display the material, saying he understands that his exhibition is controversial, but he regards it as educational and believes the public should be made more aware of the threat of Isis.

“I’m sure I will be criticised for showing such graphic images, but people have a right to see the true horror of what Islamic State (Isis) is doing,”  he told the Gloucester Citizen.

Adding that he “would find it very offensive if people thought that I was in anyway glorifying the actions of Isis”, he said: “The exhibition is in memory of the hostages and all of the thousands of people who have suffered at the hands of extremist groups, including Boko Haram and al-Qaeda.”

 

The 18th-century building, once a jail, court and police station combined, has a number of grim displays on the Holocaust, racist murders by the Ku Klux Klan in the US, and a range of items donated by serial killers. But Mr Jones said there were plenty of warnings that the museum was not a pleasant place to visit.

As a museum dedicated to the dark history of crime, he said it was right that it features information about the “worst crimes ever committed”.

But a trustee at the nearby Gloucester Islamic Trust said that by charging £8 for adults and £6 for children to enter the museum, Mr Jones was “profiting from the misery caused by Isis”. “I don’t understand why anyone would feel it was appropriate to either create this type of exhibition or indeed visit it,” said Said Hansdot, who is also a city councillor in Gloucester.

“By charging people to go and see it, it seems to me like the museum is profiting from the misery caused by Isis and I can’t see what good could come from showing these horrific images to the general public. We already know what they did. We don’t need to see it again.”

He added that Muslims in the UK already had difficulties explaining that they were not the same as Isis and that the group did not represent the version of Islam that the overwhelming majority subscribed to.

“It’s something we have to deal with a lot and reinforcing these negative stereotypes has led to trouble for some people in the past,” he said.  

But Mr Jones, who described his establishment as “the UK’s most infamous and politically incorrect black museum ”, said “it was educational”. 

“People may feel that it is insensitive and that what Isis have done is still very raw, but everyone is talking about it. We cannot ignore it,” he said.

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