A FRESH row has broken out at Harrow Arts Centre over censorship in public exhibitions.

Harrow Council has been criticised for allowing a picture depicting a Muslim woman dressed in a Hijab pointing a gun to be hung in an exhibition open to the general public.

Marion Davey, an artist who takes classes at the centre, in Uxbridge Road, complained to managers when she saw the picture had been included in the exhibition, which is made up of artwork by Nower Hill High School pupils.

She said: “I couldn't believe it was there, I was speechless that someone would hang this up.

“I find this very disturbing and shocking, and totally inappropriate to be on the wall.”

The council came under fire in October when it ordered five paintings depicting nudes to be removed from the walls of the centre, fearing they could offend children and members of faith groups.

Ms Davey accused the council of hypocrisy for allowing the painting of the Muslim woman but censoring the nudes.

Ghulam Rabbani, general secretary of Harrow Central Mosque, called for the council to take the picture down.

He said: “I am shocked and dismayed. It should not have been allowed. I can't understand why people allowed this to hang in the arts centre.

“It shows a Muslim woman as a terrorist, and they should have thought about Muslim women who have to go out on the street, go into their jobs, and how this picture will make people look at them.

“The council hasn't done any favours to Muslim women, I think it should be taken down because it could create race hate.”

Councillor Chris Mote, in charge of culture, defended the decision to hang this painting, which has been on show since November 25.

He said: “This picture is about the theme of journeys, and is a comment on the cultural pressures that impact on young women.

“The figure with a weapon and Arabic script is a direct reference to the work of famous Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, whose own work often explores the cultural impact of the Islamic revolution on women.

"This is a thoughtful comment piece by a talented Harrow teenager and there is clearly no intention to upset anyone viewing the exhibition.”

The council has promised to put an explanatory note next the painting to try to avoid people being offended.

Jonathan Hutchins, one of the artists whose nude paintings were censored by the council, welcomed the decision to include this painting in the exhibition.

He said: “I think there's no problem with it as an image.

“Obviously it raises some questions, but that doesn't mean it should not be on show.

“There can be a tendency when something is bold to say it is unacceptable, but that would send us down a dangerous path.”

Norma Stephenson, chairman of Harrow Arts Society, added: “I find it extraordinary that someone should have complained about this.

“I think it is very healthy to encourage youngsters to discuss these things. There are so many ways of looking at paintings and I think censorship can be very bad.”

The exhibition of artwork by the school pupils is showing until January 4.