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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Germany opens major Islam summit
Turkish Muslim men read the Koran at a Berlin mosque
Most Muslims in Germany are of Turkish origin
The German government has met Muslim community leaders in Berlin amid a row over the cancellation of a Mozart opera deemed offensive to Muslims.

The Islam conference was a landmark initiative to improve the integration of Germany's three million Muslims.

It was overshadowed by the row over the opera Idomeneo. In one scene it was to show the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ and Buddha.

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned "self-censorship out of fear".

"We must take care that we do not retreat out of a fear of potentially violent radicals," she said.

She was speaking after the Deutsche Oper in Berlin decided to call off November's production of Idomeneo, citing "incalculable" security risks.

Integration drive

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also attacked the opera company's decision as "crazy".

He hosted the conference on Wednesday - the start of a two-year campaign for improved integration of Muslims in Germany, most of whom are of Turkish origin.

After the meeting, Mr Schaeuble said he and his guests all wanted the opera staged and would go together to see it, to send a signal.

Earlier he told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Muslims in Germany had to accept European norms and values.

Mr Schaeuble wants their imams to be educated in Germany rather than Turkey.

He promised that the Berlin conference would tackle matters of substance, and would not be just an "exchange of pleasantries".

The agenda included topics such as Islamic education, the building of mosques and women's rights.

The secretary-general of Germany's Muslim Council, Aiman Mazyek, criticised the authorities for inviting individuals rather than the four main Muslim religious bodies in Germany.

The opera furore came two weeks after Pope Benedict XVI angered many Muslims by quoting from a medieval text that criticised some teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The publication last year of Danish cartoons satirising Muhammad also triggered widespread Muslim protests.


SEE ALSO
Beheaded prophet opera dropped
26 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Muslim anger at Pope
15 Sep 06 |  In Pictures

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