Mozart’s Idomeneo should not have been cancelled

“I never thought this could be possible, but I agree with Angela Merkel. The Deutsche Oper should not have suspended its staging of Mozart’s Idomeneo because of the scene depicting the severed heads of the Buddha, the Greco-Roman god Neptune, Jesus, and prophet Muhammad (interestingly, Moses’ head was missing from the gruesome procession).

“When the controversial Danish cartoons were published last year, I saw them as a symptom of rising Islamophobia in Europe, particularly as they appeared in a rightwing paper under a rightwing Danish government notorious for its hostility to religious and ethnic minorities. And when a few weeks ago the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor equating the Muslim faith with evil and inhumanity, I wrote that this was unacceptable coming from the representative of the largest religious institution in the world.

“Things are different this time. What we are dealing with is a creative artistic interpretation of the theme of the eclipse of the sacred…. So long as a creative and artistic work does not stigmatise a specific group, ethnic or religious, or seek to vilify it, it remains perfectly legitimate and within the parameters of free thought and expression. We need to draw a clear line between free thought and expression and the stirring of hatred against other races and religions. Mozart’s Idomeneo should not have provoked this noise and controversy, and should not have been cancelled.”

Soumaya Ghannoushi at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, 28 September 2006