March 28, 2008 / 4:11 PM / in 10 years

Muslims unhappy at German "Satanic Verses" staging

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German Muslim group said on Friday protests were likely against the first ever staging of a dramatized version of Salman Rushdie’s controversial book “The Satanic Verses” in Potsdam near Berlin on Sunday.

Nurhan Soykan, spokeswoman for the central council of Muslims in Germany, told Reuters Muslims believed in a free press and freedom of opinion.

“But even this has its boundaries,” she said. “We’re worried that provocations and insults against us have increased recently. I wouldn’t want to ban (the play) but you can bet on protests from Muslim people. They can’t be expected to put up with everything.”

Rushdie’s novel, which was published in the late 1980s, caused outrage among Muslims who deemed it blasphemous.

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme religious leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 that called on Muslims to kill the British author.

Actors Tobias Rott (C) playing the role of Saladin Chamcha and Robert Gallinowski (L) playing the role of Gibril Farishta, both characters from the book the 'Satanic Verses' by British author Salman Rushdie, perform during a dress rehearsal of a dramatisation of the novel at the Hans-Otto theatre in Potsdam near Berlin March 19, 2008. REUTERS/Bernd Uhlig

This forced the writer to live in hiding for nine years. In June 2007 he was selected for a knighthood by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, again angering some Muslims.

German police said they had been consulting with the Potsdam theatre and a large number of officers would be on patrol for the premiere on Sunday.

“We’ll be monitoring the situation,” police spokesman Rudi Sonntag said. “Although we haven’t had any indications of dangers or disturbances, we can’t rule out the possibility that demonstrations will be going on.”

European countries have witnessed a series of tense episodes in recent years as Muslims have objected to criticism of their religion by artists, politicians and media who say they are simply exercising free speech.

Islamic countries on Friday condemned the release of a film criticizing the Koran by a right-wing Dutch politician, but Muslims in the Netherlands called for restraint.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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