Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Friday, September 29, 2006

Mozart opera cancelled for fear of violence

The Berlin opera company Deutsche Oper has cancelled a production by Hans Neuenfels of Mozart's Idomeneo because it fears a scene will provoke a violent reaction. The offending scene of this three-year old production shows the severed head not only of the Greek god of the sea Poseidon, but also of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha, intended by Neunfels as a statement against organized religion. The director of the company said the decision was made on the advice of security officials, but that she will reconsider if security of the staff and theater can be guaranteed. The fear is from Islamic extremists, although some Muslim leaders have also said they support the right of the company to show this production. German political leaders from the chancellor down, as well as human rights groups and news media around the world have also protested this decision. A Vienna opera company has expressed an interest in showing the production.

David Durant of the Heretical Librarian notes:

"The most disturbing thing about the Deutsche Oper affair is that this was an act of preemptive self-censorship. The opera house's production of 'Idomeneo' had yet to attract the attention of Islamist ideologues and professional grievance mongers. However, such is the impact of the previous Islamist campaigns against free expression that one anonymous threat was enough to persuade the Deutsche Oper to cancel its production."

Terry Gross of the PBS radio show Fresh Air interviewed on Sept. 26 Ian Buruma, author of the newly published book, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, on long-standing tensions between native-born Dutch and Muslim immigrants in Holland.

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