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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Beheaded prophet opera dropped
Kirsten Harms
Director Kirsten Harms has defended the cancellation
A Berlin opera company cancelled a Mozart production over security fears because it features the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus.

Deutsche Oper said "incalculable" security risks would be posed by staging Idomeneo.

"We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures," the opera company said in a statement.

"We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support."

The opera was staged in Berlin in 2003, drawing criticism over a scene where the king presents the heads of Greek sea god Poseidon, Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

The director, Kirsten Harms, said security officials had now warned of possible problems if the production went ahead, and that it was in the best interests of performers and opera-goers to cancel it.

'On the offensive'

But Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the director had made the wrong decision to scrap the production.

"Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived out on the offensive," he told the Associated Press.

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

Germany's interior minister called the cancellation "unacceptable"

Germany's Islamic Council leader, Ali Kizilkaya, supported the cancellation, saying the Muhammad depiction could offend.

"Nevertheless, of course I think it is horrible that one has to be afraid," he told Berlin's Radio Multikulti.

"That is not the right way to open dialogue."

The decision closely follows the furore caused by a speech made by Pope Benedict in which he cited an ancient text featuring Muhammad, sparking angry street protests around the world.

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Why the opera was cancelled

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