Muslim leader advises calm over Satanic Verses stage play

March 28th, 2008 - 9:38 pm ICT by admin  

Potsdam (Germany), March 28 (DPA) A Muslim leader in Germany called Friday for calm ahead of the premiere near Berlin of a stage play based on The Satanic Verses, the controversial novel by Indian-born author Salman Rushdie. Though Rushdie’s content was “insulting” to Islam, “despite the common misconception, the majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected censorship,” said Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims.

The play is to be staged Sunday at the Hans Otto Theatre, known by the acronym HOT, in the city of Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. The script is by two Germans, Uwe Eric Laufenberg and Marcus Mislin, and is based on Rushdie’s 1988 novel.

Germans have shown only slight interest in Rushdie’s theme, the lives of Indian expatriates in contemporary England, but have been fascinated by the scandal over the book and threats to assassinate the author in revenge for passages portraying the Prophet Mohammed.

The HOT website said a cast of 12 Germans would perform the world’s first stage adaptation of a work about “the battle between modernism and anti-modernism” and it would include the controversial climax with “a prophet named Mahound”.

According to Mazyek, 39, the subject matter of the play has the potential to “insult religious people in general and Muslims in particular”.

“These days, insulting Islam is often used to attract publicity,” he said and added, “I say we should pursue the critical and constructive dialogue.”

“One should explain that freedom of opinion and the arts is a prime value, but our values do not extend to insulting what is sacred to a religion.”

Mazyek’s multi-ethnic council is one of the several national Muslim bodies in Germany.

Rushdie has frequently visited Germany and lectured at writers’ conferences. Under a Shia Iranian fatwa or edict issued in Iran in 1989, it was declared right to murder him. As a result, for many years he had police bodyguards.

In Potsdam, the two main Indian characters are to be played by Tobias Rott, as Saladin, and Robert Gallinowski, as Gibril. Much of the story involves the interplay between an archangel and a devil.

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