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In Germany, Mozart bows to Mohammed

BERLIN, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- On the eve of the first German Islam Conference, a Berlin opera house has sparked controversy for canceling a Mozart show due to threats of Islamist violence.

The Deutsche Opera said in a statement security risks presented to the company by Berlin's police had caused them to cancel their show 'Idomeneo,' a Mozart opera in which King Idomeneo sets the severed heads of religious figures, including the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ, on chairs and laughs at them.

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The scene would pose an "incalculable security risk" for the house and its visitors, the opera said in a statement, referencing similar violence sparked by the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad or the recent remarks by the pope.

The decision has sparked extensive furor in Germany, with top political and cultural figures arguing the threat of violent retaliation should not manage to constrain freedom of expression in a western Democracy.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called the cancellation "simply crazy."

Ayyub Axel Koehler, the head of the Central Council of Muslims, one of Germany's largest Muslim groups, on Tuesday told the foreign press corps in Berlin he did not want to comment directly on the Idomeneo cancellation, but gave his general opinion on the issue:

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"While we are absolutely in agreement with the need for a free press, free opinion and free arts, we also think that there are certain limits to those freedoms," he said. "If there are issues that most deeply hurt the feelings of believers, then one should be considerate, as it should be normal among civilized persons."

The affair clouds the first ever German Islam Conference, initiated by the German government, which starts Wednesday and aims to find ways to better integrate Germany's roughly 3 million Muslims.

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