Fear Of Muslim Ire Stops German Opera

The building of the 'Deutsche Oper Berlin' (German Opera Berlin) photographed Tuesday morning, Sept. 26, 2006. The opera house management on Monday, Sept. 25, 2006 withdrew the opera 'Idomeneo' by Wolfgan Amadeus Mozart, directed by Hans Neuenfels from its program.
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against "self-censorship out of fear" on Wednesday, a day after a leading Berlin opera house decided not stage a production because of concerns it could provoke Islamic ire.

German leaders widely condemned the Deutsche Oper's decision not to put on a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" with a scene featuring the severed heads of Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad, after Berlin security officials said they could not guarantee the opera house's security in the event of violent protests.

"We must be careful that we do not increasingly shy away out of fear of violent radicals," Merkel told the Hannover Neue Presse. "Self-censorship out of fear is not tolerable."

The issue was expected to dominate discussions at a previously scheduled summit with German government and Muslim leaders, which was to begin later in the day and launch a two-year dialogue on how to better integrate the country's roughly 3 million Muslims.

Kirsten Harms, director of Berlin's Deutsche Oper, said Tuesday she was pulling the 3-year-old production after Berlin's top security official recommended she either cut the disputed scene, or cancel it altogether.

Hans Neuenfels, who staged the production that the opera company last performed in 2004, refused to cut the scene, in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads not only of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, but also of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

Harms said although the four performances of the 225-year-old opera would not be performed this fall, the production would remain in Deutsche Oper's repertoire and may still performed in the future.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.