Secular Turks defend free speech in opera

18th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

18 December 2006, Berlin (dpa) - Two of Germany's best-known Turkish secular figures Monday slammed religious leaders who excused themselves from seeing a production of Idomeneo where the Prophet Mohammed is shown beheaded.

18 December 2006

Berlin (dpa) - Two of Germany's best-known Turkish secular figures Monday slammed religious leaders who excused themselves from seeing a production of Idomeneo where the Prophet Mohammed is shown beheaded.

Seyran Ates, a lawyer who represents Turkish wives in divorces, and Necla Kelek, an author critical of Turkish customs, said the opera must go ahead in the name of free speech. Both women are of Turkish origin and sit on a German government consultative panel.

A comeback performance of the Berlin opera, first staged in 2003, was to be staged Monday evening under heavy police protection out of concern that religious fundamentalists would think it sacrilegious.

Opera-goers were to be checked, as at football matches, for hidden weapons. A second and final performance is set for December 29.

Christian leaders have also expressed distaste for a final, 30- second scene added to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera by Hans Neuenfels in which the hero brings in papier-mache heads depicting Poseidon, Jesus Christ, Buddha and Mohammed and laughs at them.

The government has invited all 15 members of its panel representing people of Muslim heritage, both secular and religious, to attend. While Ates and Kelek agreed, Council of Islam and German Council of Muslims leaders declined.

Ates said on the radio channel Deutschlandradio Kultur that the show ought to have initiated discussion on making religion more up to date, and criticised its cancellation in September by the Deutsche Oper theatre out of fear of protests.

On the same channel, Kelek said Islam made no allowance for "religion in the form of art."

"Every individual form of religion is banned," she said.

Kenan Kolat, chairman of another secular group, the Turkish Community of Germany, had criticised the religious groups on Sunday.

Police said they would step up security Monday, although there had been no specific threat. Extra officers would be on duty outside the opera house and plainclothes police would mingle with the audience, said Benedikt Scherlebeck, a spokesman for Berlin city authorities.

DPA

Subject: German news

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