"Silence", which has already been shown in Paris, Berlin, New York and Madrid, was supposed to go on display in Clichy La Garenne, which is just north of the capital, in a woman-themed art show.
But French-Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah (photo below) decided to replace the work after a local Muslim group told the town hall last week that "uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents could result" if the installation was shown there.
Bouabdellah said she was surprised by the "incomprehension" her work has met, but added she believes it is tied to emotions stirred by the jihadist attacks in France earlier this month that left 17 people dead.
"I'm left wondering by the reasons that push a certain fringe among French Muslims to see this work as blasphemous," she said, adding that she didn't intend it to shock or provoke.
Bouabdellah decided to replace "Silence" with a video installation titled "Dansons" that shows belly dancing to the French national anthem.
After the installation was pulled, French artist Orlan condemned the decision in an open letter published on Facebook, newspaper Le Figaro reported.
“I protest against all pressures and/or threats that would result in a peaceful art work being pulled from an exhibition, be it due to a Christian group, a Muslim group, or a group of other beliefs,” she wrote in her statement. “Two weeks after the march on January 11th freedom of expression is still being ridiculed."
While she says she understands the reasoning behind the decision, she can’t support it because “it opens up doors to all sorts of insidious restrictions on our freedom of speech, risking that we consciously or unconsciously move from self-censorship to prevention, from prevention to inhibition created by threat and fear.”
The organizers have submitted a request to the mayor to close down the exhibition but haven't had a response yet.