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OperaRage: Idomeneo and Islam

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 27, 2006 07:28 AM

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Scene from Idomeneo: Banned in Germany

The first thing to remember when reading about the cancellation of Mozart’s Idomeneo in Germany and the opera house Deutsche Oper‘s kowtowing to Islamic bullies is that jihadists hate Western art and music.

They hate love songs.

They hate Muslim female pop stars.

They hate church frescos. And poems. And illustrations of poems. And, uh, you know how they feel about cartoons.

So it doesn’t take much to get them worked up.

The now-cancelled production of Mozart’s opera, directed by provocateur Hans Neuenfels, includes a scene in which King Idomeneo is shown staggering on stage next to the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Poseidon and the Prophet Mohammad, which sit on chairs. It was an equal-opportunity insult of religions. But it doesn’t matter. When Mohammed is insulted, you know the consequences.

The dhimmi opera house director reports that Berlin’s top police official had phoned her in mid-August and warned her of dire consequences if the opera house proceeded with its plan to show “Idomeneo.” Needless to say, the dire consequences did not involve Buddhists and Christians and admirers of Poseidon threatening to behead the opera singers.

And so we move seamlessly from Cartoon Rage to Opera Rage. CNN:

“We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Mohammed) caricatures,” Deutsche Oper said in a statement. “We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support.”

Well, at least some German politicians are refusing to submit on this one:

German politicians denounced the opera house’s move, deputy parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Thierse saying it highlighted a new threat to free artistic expression in Germany.

“Has it come so far that we must limit artistic expression?” he told Reuters. “What will be next?”

Peter Ramsauer, head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) in parliament, said the move pointed to a “naked fear of violence” and called it an act of “pure cowardice.”

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also criticized the decision. “We tend to become crazy if we start to forbid Mozart operas being played. We will not accept it,” he told a news conference during a visit to Washington.

I’m trying to get a full transcript of Schaeuble’s remarks, but it sounds like a terrific manifesto. Here are a few more details:

German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said today that some Muslim radicals tend to act in a “crazy” manner with minimal provocation.

Schaeuble, in Washington on an official visit, also defended Pope Benedict XVI in his dispute with some Muslims that arose after a speech he gave two weeks ago at Regensburg University in Germany.

Benedict has expressed regret for offending Muslims in his remarks and said they did not reflect his personal views. He has not offered an apology as some had sought.

“I will never accept that it isn’t allowed for the pope or anyone else to make such a speech,” Schaeuble told reporters at a breakfast news conference.

In the same vein, he defended the right of Danish newspapers to print cartoons that many Muslims found offensive and generated protests in many countries.

“I will not accept that there will be violence because people don’t like some pictures in newspapers,” Schaeuble said.

He also said some non-Muslims go too far in attempting to accommodate Muslim sensitivities.

As an example, he cited a recent decision by a leading opera house in Germany to cancel a production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” after Berlin security officials warned of an “incalculable risk” because of scenes dealing with Islam, as well as other religions.

By showing too much deference to Muslims on such matters, he said, the non-Muslim world “will not succeed in convincing people” that free speech and tolerance “are better than fundamentalism”.

He acknowledged that it is not easy to deal with a situation in which some Muslims react disproportionately to what he considered to be minor offences.

“It’s a difficult situation with some Muslims. They tend to use anything to become crazy. I can’t accept that,” he said.

Say it again:

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Related commentary:

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, “The world is in exile”

Listen to samples from Idomeneo here.

Here’s a synopsis of Idomeneo.

“Dialogue” between Muslims and the German government commences in Berlin, der Spiegel reports:

Wednesday afternoon in Berlin, Germany’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble will realize an idea that is simultaneously exceedingly simple and extraordinarily ambitious: opening a dialogue the the country’s Muslim minority. Schäuble, as host of Germany’s Islam Conference, will be bringing together his Interior Ministry with Islamic groups in pursuit of a “German Islam.” Schäuble wants to find a way out of the dead end that the German debate over integration has led itself into. “Our work should be as concrete as possible,” Schäuble told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday. “This is about designing our future together.”

And the invitation list makes clear that it’s not just a PR stunt. The Interior Minister has not shied away from bringing together influential people who have not previously had kind words for one another. The Islamic delegation will be comprised of representatives from the major Islamic organizations in Germany, as well as people from “Islamic civil society” – teachers, entrepreneurs and secular intellectuals like the novelist Feridun Zaimoglu. Some are “cultural Muslims” without religious faith, others are even critics of Islam like the author Necla Kelek and the attorney Seyran Ates.

The conference, nine months in the making, is still a shaky proposition that threatens to go off into unexpected directions. Conservative Muslims like Ali Kizilkaya, head of the Islamic Council, are not excited by the idea of debating with the feminist invitees about the role of women, the head scarf, and forced marriage. The spokesman of the liberal Islamic group Aleviten wonders, meanwhile, why only the conservative Islamic groups were given the privilege of holding a speech during the conference.

Schäuble doesn’t claim to know how it’s going to turn out; he hopes, though, to get everyone to focus on the work at hand. Above all, he wants to address religious education and the training of imams. These are, indeed, the major concerns of his ministry: since the German government doesn’t financially support Islamic educational institutions, the majority of the 2,500 mosques in Germany have to fly in their priests from other countries. And since these mullahs usually don’t speak German, it’s difficult for the government to know what they are preaching. Schäuble hopes to create a new legal relationship between the German state and its Muslim citizens that would give Islam more recognition. In return, Schäuble hopes, Muslim groups would be more transparent and more explicitly committed to the German constitutional system.

Blogger Sugiero: Intimidation through violence works.

Reader George has a somewhat different take. He e-mails:

In re the current Idomeneo affair: It’s just another example of an ego-driven director trying to turn an 18th-century work into something that it is not by infecting the stage sets & direction with his own politico-artistic embellishments. I’m somewhat familiar with Idomeneo (Mozart’s great opera seria for the Mannheim court, which premiered in January 1781) and I can’t find anywhere in the libretto or original stage directions reference to severed heads of paradigmatic figures as part of the scenery. Idomeneo should be presented as Mozart and the Mannheimers (and his father Leopold) intended. Let his superbly dramatic music speak for itself. And leave off the twisted accretions of the last two centuries.

As I said, director Hans Neuenfels is a provocateur and the decapitated heads scene he added to Idomeneo is not in the original opera. But I have far more of a beef with the Muslim censors leading the Religion of Perpetual Outrage than I do with a goofy German art director messing around with Mozart.

This is about much more than free speech and artistic creativity and blasphemy and insult. It’s about whether we submit to dhimmitude or fight.

I say fight.

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