German politicians condemn self-censorship

The Director of the Deutche Oper, Kirten Harms, was hoping for support for her decision to cancel a controversial production of Idomeneo (see story below):

We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures. […]
We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support.

To the credit of German politicians, that support has not been forthcoming.

Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the director had made the wrong decision:

Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived out on the offensive.[…]

Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them.

Deputy parliamentary speaker, Wolfgang Theirse:

Has it come so far that we must limit artistic expression? What will be next?

And Peter Ramsauer, head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, called it an act of “pure cowardice” and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called the decision “crazy” and “unacceptable”.

Note that the Christian Social Union tried and failed to prosecute MTV for “disparaging Christianity” when it showed Popetown – but we don’t expect consistency from religious leaders.

At least German politicians are speaking out. There are precious few in the UK who would do the same.

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel has added her voice to the protests:

We must be careful that we do not increasingly shy away out of fear of violent radicals. […]Self-censorship out of fear is not tolerable

Kenan Kolat, a leader of the German Turkish community, said it was time Muslims accepted freedom of expression in art:

This is about art, not about politics. […] We should not make art dependent on religion — then we are back in the Middle Ages.

The leader of Germany’s Islamic Council, however, welcomed the decision, as the depiction of Mohammed’s severed head “would certainly offend some Muslims”.

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