Museum director Jette Sandahl said the museum aimed at creating a dialogue with visitors and the painting, Scene d'Amour, by Algerian artist Louzla Darabi, was removed earlier this week because it detracted attention from a current exhibit about HIV/Aids.

"The mixture of a painting and the verses from the Quran was
offensive to many people," Sandahl of the newly inaugurated World Culture Museum in the west coast city Gothenburg said.

A second painting by Darabi with the same motif, but without the verses, remained in the exhibit. Sandahl said the museum was in talks with Darabi about a replacement painting.

Freedom of expression?

The HIV/Aids exhibit deals with prejudice and taboos, centred
around themes such as denial, lust, despair and hope.

Some of the emails sent to the museum were threatening, but Sandahl said she was not too concerned and most were polite.

"The mixture of a painting and the verses from the Quran was offensive to many people"

Museum director Jette Sandahl

Critics have said the museum management's decision was wrong, and it should have protected the artist's freedom of expression.

"We have obviously touched many people deeply," Sandahl said, adding that the artist was informed about the reactions.

Culture sensitivity has increased at museums during the past 20-25 years, and gender issues are also taken into account, Sandahl said.