German government holds talks with Muslims

27th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

27 September 2006, BERLIN - 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. The meeting was overshadowed by controversy about a Berlin opera house that cancelled a production showing decapitated heads of the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ. The Deutsche Oper said it had been worried it might be attacked by Muslim extremists. Thomas Flierl, minister

27 September 2006

BERLIN - 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.

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

Thomas Flierl, minister of culture of the city-state of Berlin, said he would summon Islamic and Christian groups to forge a "freedom of speech" consensus so that the production could be reinstated.

At the federal government's talks with the Muslim community, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said all 15 Islamic participants had also told him the controversial production of Idomeneo should go ahead.

Critics have accused Deutsche Oper this week of self-censorship and kowtowing to extremists.

The provocative scene, in which the hero laughs at the decapitated heads of Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha and a Greek god, is not part of the original opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but was devised as an addition by a German director, Hans Neuenfels, in 2003.

Schaeuble said his talks with the German Muslim community at Berlin's Charlottenburg palace were "not always harmonious" but proceeded "in a tolerant tone."

There had been a "frank" discussion of differences between the government and Muslims at the first day of talks, which are to resume at working-party level on November 8 and to proceed for two or more years.

One secular Turkish leader, Badr Mohammed who heads the European Integration association in Berlin, said after the almost three-hour meeting that it had been "historic."

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

The Ditib, which is associated with Turkey's Religious Affairs Ministry, said it and three other national Islamic associations in Germany had agreed to work more closely with one another in future.

The invitation to 15 representatives of the Muslim community to set out their positions was the first time federal authorities have ever negotiated on the concerns of a minority who make up more than 4 per cent of Germany's 82-million-strong population.

Muslims in Germany 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.

Mosque 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.

DPA

Subject: German news

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