Wednesday, September 27, 2006

All Participants Of Berlin Conference On Islam, Including 15 Muslims, Decry Cancellation Of Controversial Production Of Mozart's Idomeneo

"The German Muslim community embarked Wednesday on its first collective talks with the government in Berlin, with both sides saying there had been frank differences but they were keen to get down to detail.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble hosted the "Conference on Islam" in Berlin that brought together the federal government and 15 representatives of the 3.2 million Muslims in Germany for the beginning of a two-year dialogue. The government wants the talks to result in a contract between the two sides that will improve integration in Germany and quell the growing influence of Islamist extremists.

The meeting was overshadowed by controversy about a Berlin opera house that cancelled a production showing decapitated heads of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus. The Deutsche Oper said it had been worried it might be attacked by Muslim extremists.

Schäuble said the meeting's participants had all told him the controversial production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" should go ahead.

"We want this production to be performed as soon as possible," he said, adding that they would then go together to watch it.

His talks with the German Muslim community were "not always harmonious" but proceeded "in a tolerant tone," Schäuble said. There was disagreement over the questions of who were appropriate representatives of the Muslim community, women's rights and whether girls should be allowed to take part in school swimming lessons, but the participants had gotten along, he added.

"It will be difficult and it will be a lot of work," Schäuble said of the talks, which are to be resumed by three working groups on values, religious questions as well as business and the media on Nov. 8. An additional group will discuss questions of domestic security and preventing Islamist violence....

Badr Mohammed, a secular Turkish leader who heads the European Integration Center in Berlin, said the meeting had the nearly three-hour meeting had been "a historic breakthrough in the intercultural opening of society."

The leaders of Islamic religious groups who took part were more cautious in welcoming the talks, but stressed their devotion to Germany's democratic constitution....

This is first time federal authorities have ever launched a dialogue with the country's Muslim minority. Muslims make up more than 4 percent of Germany's 82-million-strong population. They are not only divided into secular and religious camps, but also by country of origin and theological differences.

The government has been calling for all Muslims in Germany to adopt the German language, affirm their support for democracy and help catch violent Islamists. Some Muslim leaders hope their faith can win equal treatment to that given in Germany to Christian churches. Germany's Jewish community has also negotiated an agreement with the government regulating their relations.

Religious groups complained before the meeting that they were only allocated five of the 15 Muslim seats at the table, with the rest distributed among secular and other groups."

Deutsches Welle "Intercultural Dialogue: German Government Launches Dialogue With Muslims" September 27, 2006,2144,2187588,00.html

Controversial scene from the German Opera 2002 production of Mozart's Idomeneo. State-funded opera directors and artists in Europe have much greater latitude to be controversial than do State-funded opera directors and artists in the United States (and increasingly in Russia).

Photo credit: Der Spiegel. With thanks.


Blogger Atlantic Review said...

It seems that the cancellation will be revoked and this opera will be shown after all. What a clever publicity stunt the opera house made by first announcing the cancellation. Usually hardly anybody would be interested in that opera, but now it is the talk of the town.

I think I am in a very small minority in Germany who approved of the cancellation. That opera is an insult to other religions (since it shows the severed heads of Jesus and Buddha as well) and to Mozart, the composer, himself.

What benefit would we get if we had this opera? It seems the only reason to defend this stupid opera is to avoid giving the impression of appeasement to the Islamofascists. That's not enough for me. I think this opera would only strengthen Islamofasicsm since it would help their propaganda. To win the war on terrorism, we need to have moderate Muslims on our side, so that they don't support the terrorists, but give us information about them. And we want the moderate Muslims to win over their autocratic governments and fundamentalist groups in the Arab world. This opera, however, alienates the moderate Muslims and helps the fundamentalists.

Greetings from Berlin,
My blog: The Atlantic Review, A press digest on transatlantic affairs edited by three German Fulbright Alumni

P.S.: What do you think would happen if this opera (which shows the severed heads of Mohammed and Jesus) would be showed in the American bible belt?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Jörg [and Sonja, Jörg, and Scott], thank you very much for posting your very insightful comment and viewpoint to my blog and for introducing yourselves and your blog, The Atlantic Review. I am up to my eyeballs right now in a complex memorandum, and I only had time for a quick initial glance at your very interesting site. I hope to return to it very soon.

Jörg, it did in fact cross my mind that this could be a publicity stunt, but I have so far been disinclined to believe this. Unless you convince me otherwise, the German Opera House (which I attended a half dozen times in '00 to '04) is not a good candidate for such a stunt, in my view. [Might the MET Opera, now under Peter Gelb, have tried such a stunt? Perhaps, but also not likely 5 years after 9/11, in my view.]

The focus of late yesterday reporting in the N.Y.Times was on the inexperience of the new General Director from Kiel. It was unclear whether this woman, from Kiel, had asked the director and his lawyer to remove the interpolated scene not in the original [quite long] Mozart opera.

I think that I myself already asked, either in my blog or at a composer forum, Sequenza21, where I post as zeno, whether America would have accepted a production that showed a beheaded Jesus Christ. I guessed no, and referred to America's own cultural wars in the 1980s/90s. I also asked why the director had left out a shackled and beheaded Moses, and I received an interesting response from a highly thoughtful, liberal American Jew -- a medical doctor and composer.

I agree with you strongly that opera companies worldwide could be used for the transmission of humane, new enlightenment ideas; and that this production did not appear to serve that function. And perhaps 'radical secularism' does indeed have no place in Mozart. Let the director find his own composers and librettists to promote his ideas, which happen to be shared by less than 10% of the American population, here.

Again, thanks for the sublety of your comment, and I look foward to reading more of your joint blog.



11:14 AM  

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