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Muslim damages Dali paintings

ISLAM AND the West have clashed once again in Istanbul - and this time, Salvador Dali came off worst. To the astonishment of gathered art lovers, Muhammad Sevim stormed into an exhibition of Dali's work and punched two of the paintings. The 21-year-old smashed glass panels protecting the works and spattered the canvases with his blood.

Witnesses said he appeared to feel the Spanish surrealist's work offended Muslim values. "Why is no one wearing a head scarf?" he shouted at women. "Why are there pictures of naked women?"

Mr Sevim is now in a mental hospital and exhibition organisers dismissed the attack as "the act of a madman". Cahit Ozden, president of the Darulaceze foundation said: "In Paris somebody threw an egg at the Mona Lisa. It's no different here."

But Turkey is a society with an identity crisis, and there are plenty who agree with Mr Sevim. Young and wealthy Turks who go to Dali exhibitions may live in a world of cocktail bars and miniskirts, and regard a head scarf as an affront to the official secularism, but there is another layer of Turkish society where head scarves are the norm and Salvador Dali is not.

The exhibition has broken local attendance records, with 90,000 visitors in its first week. The two damaged paintings, depicting Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, icons of the Renaissance that turned Europe towards secularism, are being repaired.