Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's all over if the fat lady doesn't sing

The ball of self-censorship has started to roll. The Berlin Opera has cancelled a run of Mozart's Idomeneo.

The problem is that, along with the heads of Poseidon, Jesus and Buddha, the head of Mohammed is also depicted.

So, after a warning from the security officials that the 200 year old opera "could provoke dangerous reactions" and pose a threat to the safety of opera goers (and presumably others), Kirsten Harms, director of Berlin's Deutsche Opera decided to pull the plug on the production. German politicians are not happy.

According to Reuters, Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, rightly says, "Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them."

And, according to the International Herald Tribune, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that "self-censorship out of fear" would not be tolerated.

"This is about art, not about politics. "We should not make art dependent on religion — then we are back in the Middle Ages." said Kenan Kolat, a leader of Germany's Turkish Community, adding that it was time Muslims accepted freedom of expression in art.

Strong words all round, but will we have the courage of our convictions to stand behind them? I predict that the rationalisation that an opera (or a book, or a poem, or a painting, or a photograph, or a play or a film or a TV programme) isn't worth the life of a nun will gain currency. Of course, that's exactly right: very little is worth trading for a human life. But it's a false dilema.

By failing to assert the right to free expression in a free country, we're bargaining away a lot more than the life of a nun... or a director, or a tourist, or whoever else's blood Islamists decide must be spilt in retribution for free thought and free expression.

4 Comments:

At 3:31 pm, Anonymous Josh in Berlin said...

It seems that the cancellation will be revoked and this opera will be shown after all. What a great and shrewd 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.

Let's not forget that theater plays critical of Christians and Israel also get canceled. Earlier this year:
"A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced as "censorship"."
http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/theatre-gets-stagefright-over-play-on-israeli-death-of-activist/2006/02/28/1141095740986.html

I am not a fan of Rachel Corrie. Not at all. However, if one criticizes the canellation of the Mozart opera for fear of offending Muslimes, then one should also criticize the canceling of that play for fear of offending supporters of Israel..

Besides:
"On May 23, 1998, the New York Times announced that the Manhattan Theatre Club would be canceling its scheduled production of playwright Terrence McNally's newest play, Corpus Christi, due to bomb and death threats made against the theatre, its personnel, and the playwright. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights disavowed responsibility for the threats but did publicly applaud the decision, calling the play "blasphemous.""
http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/theatre_journal/v051/51.2pr_mcnally.html

When Corpus Christi was shown in Germany in 2000, there have been death threats and bomb threats as well:
http://www.cityinfonetz.de/tagblatt/thema/thema39/

Thus it could very well be that the threats against the "Idomeneo" opera are not only coming from Muslims, but from Christians, who don't like to see the severed head of Jesus... Having said that: The concern about attacks from Muslims is bigger.

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

 
At 4:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We kill anyone that insult holy prophet Mohammed. Hadith say: "kill anyone that insult prophet" so take care and respect Islam or die!

 
At 4:13 pm, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Can't the 'holy prophet' do his own killing?

 
At 1:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yawn, Is it me or is the whole "Islam is the mutts nuts of religion and anyone who insults it will die a burning death in hell" argument getting a touch boring?

I have a few Muslim friends who seem to be able to go about thier daily lives without telling Gay people they are spawn of Satan or killing people who insult Islam by making what I found a very amusing comic strip.

I myself think its all a load of shite and when you die thats it! no virgins, no meeting the big man no nothing... If more people accepted you have one life and should just earn a little cash, make a few friends have fun and then you die we would all be a lot happier...

There I said my piece.

 

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