Thursday, September 28, 2006

fear of giving offense

after the recent ridiculous and violent protests by some muslims against the comments by pope, which should not have been offensive to anybody who actually read the pope's lecture (for which imo he should not have apologized), we now have the cancellation of an adapted staging of the opera idomeneo by mozart. this adaptation by director hans neuenfels featured severed heads of muhammad, jesus, and buddha (see above pic from der spiegel's website).

no doubt the religious chauvinists of all kinds here will approve this latest example of chickening out on the part of western 'liberals', while politically correct peaceniks everywhere will support it as showing tolerance and sensitivity to other 'cultures'.

imo, as i said when cartoon controversy was going on, there should not be any curb on freedom of expression, even if the intent was to give offense, as long as others are allowed the same freedom. i agree with the mayor of berlin who said, "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". that is true not only in berlin but everywhere.

intolerance should not be tolerated

there is news that cancellation was canceled after criticism. good.


moreprolix said...

We seem to be on an eerily similar wavelength... Glad to see that Reason has prevailed over pusillanimity. I'll have to go figure out how to edit my post now.

Keshi said...

100% agree with ya!

**there should not be any curb on freedom of expression

spot on!

as long as it's not violence, why not allow someone to speak how they honestly feel?

I agree with Pope. And no one has the right to threaten to kill etc just cos someone spoke their mind.


Josh in Berlin said...

Most people and newspapers in Germany criticize the cancellation of this Mozart opera. Even a representative of one of many Muslim organization criticized this decision.

I think I am in a very small minority who approves of the decision. That opera is an insult to other religions (since it shows the severed heads of Jesus and Buddha as well) and to Mozart, the composer, himself.

What benefit would we get if we had this opera? It seems the only reason to defend this stupid opera is to avoid giving the impression of appeasement to the Islamofascists. That's not enough for me. Analogy: People can call me coward all day, but I don't get intimidated. I am not doing something just to prove to someone that I am not a coward. Well, I did that in kindergarten and elementary school, but now I am more confident and don't feel I have to prove anything to anyone. Jesus, what a hero I am. :-)

Is this opera helping us? No, I think this opera would only strengthen Islamofasicsm since it would help their propaganda. To win the war on terrorism, we need to have moderate Muslims on our side, so that they don't support the terrorists, but give us information about them. And we want the moderate Muslims to win over their autocratic governments and fundamentalist groups in the Arab world. This opera, however, alienates the moderate Muslims and helps the fundamentalists.

I think we should criticize the Arab world all day on how they treat women, violate human rights, lack democracy, have too much corruption, etc etc. And we should lecture them all day that they should make peace with Israel, that they should spend their money education rather than military, that they should save Darfur, that they need economic reforms etc etc. Since nobody likes to be attacked, criticized and lectured on every issue, we should avoid making fun of their Prophet of defaming their Prophet. Rather we should focus on the topics that matter. That's not appeasement, but about focusing on what is important and it is about setting priorities.

Though, as I said: I am in the minority on this one. Most Germans criticize the cancellation of the opera. It was the opera house who decided to cancel the show. Not the federal or the city government. If (!) the government had told the opera show to cancel the show, then I would be critical and complain about strangeling free speech and about unacceptable government intervention into the arts. But that was not the case.

Let's not forget that Muslims are not the only religious group who dislikes controversial art:

This is from Oct 23, 1998: "Last May, William Donohue, the ever-vigilant president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, raised quite a ruckus about the fact that Corpus Christi, Terrence McNally's play-in-progress, featured a gay, Christ-like protagonist who has sex, off-stage, with his male disciples. Donohue, who has a gift for strained analogies that rivals McNally's own, has called the play "hate speech," "bigotry," and of course "blasphemy." He has argued that a similar depiction of a black or Jewish religious figure would be roundly condemned. Only Catholics and their beliefs, Donohue insists, are held up to such ridicule."
Long article here:

Yeah, yeah, this only happens to Catholics.... Right! And some Jews say those kind of attacks only happen to Jews. And some Muslims say those things only happen to Muslims

The play was then shown after all. And probably the Idomeneo opera will be shown as well soon. They certainly got a lot of publicity. More than this opera house would usually get. Usually hardly anybody would be interested in that opera, but now it is the talk of the town.

"On May 23, 1998, the New York Times announced that the Manhattan Theatre Club would be canceling its scheduled production of playwright Terrence McNally's newest play, Corpus Christi, due to bomb and death threats made against the theatre, its personnel, and the playwright. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights disavowed responsibility for the threats but did publicly applaud the decision, calling the play "blasphemous." A week later, after counter-demonstrations by a roster of well-known contemporary playwrights, the play was reinstated at MTC. Although the Catholic League's president had not read the play, reports claiming that it depicted a gay Jesus-like figure who has sex with his apostles was enough to ignite a series of events that captured the attention of New Yorkers, theatre artists and others, perhaps to a greater extent than McNally's play itself. On opening night, two separate demonstrations took place concurrently on opposite ends of the block outside the theater."

The same play was shown in Germany, but then cancelled after death threats and bomb threats.

Komisiripala said...

the conflicts b/w christianity and islam has been there since the emergence of islam. it will continue until neither one is vying to be the dominant religion in the world. so, there is no point about that anymore.

the pope did nothing wrong, it was the illiteracy of the self proclaimed leaders of islam that caused all the ruckus. the fact that they didn't understand the words and I Quote" which were repeated three times is no one's fault except their own. the pope was however wrong to apologize. the apology depicts a position that everybody else is afraid of the islamic temperament and will do what they can to appease them. thats the last thing anybody needs.

i came across an itneresting post relating to all of the things in sittingnuts post. located at

i think it highlights the societal misconceptions inherent in every culture - except in this case it is not an arab having an attack of verbal diarrhoea, but an american.

as for josh in berlin - i have to say this. the play should not have been cancelled in the first place. but it was and then reinstated. we don't gain anything by provoking extremists, but we do show the world and that we are not cowed by a few of them. that our principles are intact. our values are the same. you decry a play that was cancelled, but who on the side of the extremists decry the beheadings? the abductions?

art is a way for us humans to express ourselves. it vents our feelings, emotions and gives voice and imagery to things we don't even realize are there. we take on current issues with subtleness and tact. present it in a way that is palatable to all - except those who do not wish to see the truth. it is a forum. the day we start censoring ourselves is the day we begin to decay. you should watch Equilibirum. that movie, as messed up as it is shows the possible extent that people will go to in order to appease everybody. you may laugh, its a movie. it can't happen. look at the current state of the world today, the way old treaties are re-defined and ask your dad or grand father if THEY thought something like that will ever happen? the world united after WW II and created the UN. what has become of it now? how effective has it been in preventing conflicts since its inception? did the creators of that at that time think it will ever happen? look at the pattern and you will see that in maybe 100 to 200 years god only know how the world would have changed. you may shrug it off saying its beyond your lifetime so why do you care? if you don't, who will?