Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mozart Opera Production In Berlin Featuring Severed Heads Of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, And Poseidon Cancelled Due To Security Concern

"A leading opera house has canceled a 3-year-old production of Mozart's ''Idomeneo,'' citing authorities' fears that it posed ''incalculable'' security risks because it featured the severed head of religious figures, including Muhammad.

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 Muhammad.

In a statement late Monday, the Deutsche Oper said it decided ''with great regret'' to cancel the production of the 225-year-old opera after Berlin security officials warned of an ''incalculable risk'' because of scenes dealing with Islam, as well as other religions.

''We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures,'' the statement said. ''We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support.''

Kirsten Harms, director of the Deutsche Oper, told the Berliner Morgenpost on Tuesday that Berlin state police had warned of a possible -- but not certain -- threat, and she decided it would be in the best interest of the safety of the opera house, its employees and patrons to cancel the production.

The leader of Germany's Islamic Council welcomed the decision, saying a depiction of Muhammad with a severed head ''could certainly offend Muslims.''

''Nevertheless, of course I think it is horrible that one has to be afraid,'' Ali Kizilkaya told Berlin's Radio Multikulti. ''That is not the right way to open dialogue.''

Others, including Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, condemned the decision, which came ahead of a conference on Islam planned for Wednesday.

''That is crazy,'' Schaeuble told reporters in Washington, where he was holding meetings with U.S. officials. ''This is unacceptable.''

The decision comes after the German-born Pope Benedict XVI infuriated Muslims by characterizing some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as ''evil and inhuman,'' particularly ''his command to spread by the sword the faith.''

Earlier this year, furious protests erupted after a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Those caricatures were then reprinted by dozens of newspapers and Web sites in Europe and elsewhere, often in the name of freedom of expression.

Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depiction of Muhammad for fear it could lead to idolatry.

The leader of Germany's Turkish Community said that while he could understand how the production could be seen as offensive, he also encouraged Muslims living in the West to accept certain elements of the traditions here, noting an opera production is not equivalent to a political point of view.

''I would recommend Muslims learn to accept certain things,'' Kenan Kolat told the online Netzeitung newspaper. ''Art must remain free.''

Associated Press "Berlin Opera House Cancels Production" Mew York Times September 26, 2006


An appropriate public exhibition of a Severed Head of the Buddha?

Photo credit: www. dzogchen.org With thanks.


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