Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fury as opera cancelled for fear of offending Muslims

EU: As Europe keeps on the path of bowing down to threats of violence and artistic rights are trampled in the name of saving your life.

The Deutsche Oper Berlin yesterday said it had decided "with great regret" to cancel a planned production of Mozart's Idomeneo after city security officials warned of an "incalculable risk" because of scenes dealing with Islam, as well as other religions. Kirsten Harms, the director of the Deutsche Oper, said that the Berlin state police had warned of a possible - but not certain - threat and that she decided it would be in the best interest of the safety of the opera house, its employees and patrons to cancel the production. After its premiere in 2003, the production by Hans Neuenfels drew widespread criticism over a scene in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads not only of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, but also of Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed. "We know the consequences of the conflict over the [Mohammed] caricatures," the opera house said in a statement. "We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support."
German officials are surprisingly outraged.
The leader of Germany's Islamic Council welcomed the decision, saying a depiction of Mohammed with a severed head "could certainly offend Muslims." "Nevertheless, of course I think it is horrible that one has to be afraid," Ali Kizilkaya said. "That is not the right way to open dialogue." Dieter Glietsch, head of the Berlin state police, said: "One can find nothing wrong if, in a climate that's already tense between Islam and the western world, people avoid heating up the situation further through a scene that can - and perhaps even must - be taken as provocative by pious Muslims." Many others, including Germany's senior security official, Wolfgang Schäuble, the interior minister, condemned the decision, which came ahead of a conference on Islam planned for today. "That is crazy," Mr Schäuble told reporters in Washington DC, where he was holding meetings with American officials. Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said that "with all understanding for the concern about the security of spectators and performers, I consider the decision of the director to be wrong. "Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived out on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them." Bernd Neumann, the federal government's senior cultural official, said that "problems cannot be solved by keeping silent". He added: "When the concern over possible protests leads to self-censorship, then the democratic culture of free speech becomes endangered."

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