September 26, 2006

A decision disliked by everyone. Almost everyone.

Posted in Germany, Islam at 11:52 pm by billdawson

I have just been reading the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s account of the Deutsche Oper’s decision not to perform a particular version of Mozart’s Idomeneo because it was judged to be potentially too dangerous.  Why too dangerous?

Why else?  Because Muslim ragists might take offense to  the fact that, in this production, their prophet (pbuh) suffers a fate similar to that suffered by victims of some of the more energetic of today’s adherents to the Religion of Peace ™: beheading.

Although Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon — yes, Poseidon — suffer the same fate in this production of the opera, one apparently cannot count on this equal opportunity beheading to placate the ragists.  And we know what tends to happen when ragists act out.  Kirsten Harms, the head of the Deutsche Oper, didn’t want that responsibility.

If the FAZ account is correct, it’s a bizarre story. It seems as though Harms, et al, actually kinda hoped nobody would notice that the opera disappeared from the season’s program:

Erst auf den Tip eines Informanten hin begann sich Ende letzter Woche Markus Geiler vom Evangelischen Pressedienst (epd) für die Sache zu interessieren. Tatsächlich fand sich im Spielplan der Deutschen Oper kein „Idomeneo“ mehr, ja nicht einmal ein Hinweis auf dessen Nicht-Wiederaufnahme. Nachfragen Geilers beim Landeskriminalamt und dem Opernhaus brachten schließlich das Gegenteil ans Licht. Getrieben von der öffentlichen Nachfrage und nachdem bereits die Meldung des epd die Redaktionen erreichte, gab das Opernhaus am Montag eine Pressemeldung heraus: „Idomeneo im November entfällt“.

(After getting an informant’s tip, Markus Geiler of the evangelical press service (epd) began to become interested in the story at the end of last week.  True enough, “Idomeneo” was no longer on the Deutsche Oper’s program, and without any explanation.  Geiler’s inquiries at the state criminal police [Landeskriminalamt] and the Opera House finally brought the issue to light.  Pressured by enquiries and after the epd report reached editorial offices, the Opera finally gave out a press release on Monday: “Idomeneo in November cancelled.”)

In case you were worried, you will be pleased to know that this is not any kind of self-censorship or curtailing of artistic freedom (I’m being sarcastic).  Referring to Harms’s strange press conference:

Es gehe nicht um eine grundsätzliche Einschränkung der Freiheit der Kunst. „Es geht um Einschränkung der Kunstfreiheit an dieser Stelle.“

(It is not a question of a fundamental curtailment of artistic freedom.  “It is a question of a curtailment of artistic freedom on this point.”)  [I translated “an dieser Stelle” as “on this point”.  It could, I suppose, also mean “location”.]

And later, after meeting with Harms, the communist (oh, excuse me, “PDS”) Berlin Culture Senator issued a statement in which he said that he and Harms agreed

„daß hier kein Präzedenzfall vorliegt und auch keine Selbstzensur.“

(that this neither sets a precedent nor is it self-censorship.)

As FAZ immediately asks, “What is it then?” (Was sonst?)

Meanwhile, people are coming out of the woodwork to condemn the decision.  Everybody hates it: representatives of the right, the left, the center, of religious communities…Oh, wait, except for this guy:

Der Vorsitzenden des Islamrats, Ali Kizilkaya, begrüßte hingegen die Absetzung. „Eine Oper oder eine Karikatur – das macht keinen großen Unterschied.“ Es gehe nicht um die Freiheit der Kunst, so Kizilkaya, sondern um „Respekt vor dem Anderen“.

The chairman of the Islamic Council, Ali Kizilkaya, welcomed the cancellation.  “An opera or a cartoon — there is no big difference.”  It’s not about artistic freedom, according to Kizilkaya, but rather about “respect for others.”

And we can learn a lot about respect for others from Islam.  Am I right?

(NOTE: Here is a link to a Deutsche Welle story (in English) about the decision.)