The World from Berlin: Ban on Film Would Be a 'Victory for Extremists'
Germany is considering forbidding a far-right party from publicly screening the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" in Berlin in November. But editorialists in the country say a ban would be wrong because it would play into the hands of extremists on all sides.
The German far-right party Pro Deutschland has said it plans a public screening of the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" in November, prompting fears that the event could trigger violence in Germany.
The issue has prompted a heated debate in the country, and Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday the film should not be shown if it endangered public safety. "I can imagine that there are good reasons for this," she said, adding that a ban on the public screening was currently being considered.
Religious blasphemy was a crime in Germany until 1969, when the law was changed. At present, acts of blasphemy are only deemed criminal if they could disrupt public peace.
On Tuesday, most German media commentators said that even though the 14-minute film is disgusting rubbish, its screening should not be prohibited because it would breach the right to freedom of expression.
Conservative daily Die Welt writes:
"The little right-wing populist party Pro Deutschland wants to screen in a Berlin cinema the abusive video about the Prophet Muhammad that thousands of religious extremists in the Islamic world have seized on to storm American embassies and kill US diplomats. Is this event a good idea? A clear no. Is the presentation nonetheless legitimate? A clear yes.
"Freedom of art also extends to kitsch and propaganda. Everything else leads to state or self-censorship."
"Those who had hoped that the North African countries would find their way towards secular societies after their democratic spring have been proven wrong for now. In almost all the newly organized Arab states, Islamists are on the advance, the governments are weak, the state's monopoly of power doesn't exist yet or is too weak. At present there's hardly anybody to stand in the way of those who want to demonstrate religious totalitarianism there."
Center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"One looks at these 14 minutes and wants to vomit. One is disgusted at the sleazy tone and the cheap production of the film that portrays Muhammad as a violent criminal driven by his urges. One is even more disgusted at the cynical motivations of the producers and distributors from the worldwide network of Christian hate preachers. They wanted to light a fire. They wanted to unleash their own hatred in order to provoke and mobilize hatred on the other side so that the world can see what violent thugs the Others are. It worked. Now embassies are on fire, people are dying, militant Muslims are being given a free hand. One wants to vomit again: because it is a sign of the times and not just an aberration."
The newspaper said it could understand why Chancellor Angela Merkel said she saw "good reasons" for a ban on the public screening of the film, but said "a ban won't help. The film itself avoids criminal content. It is disgusting in that it conveys primitive content -- but being primitive and hate-filled isn't a crime. And the fact that it could disrupt order is also unlikely to be sufficient grounds for a ban -- the feared riots mustn't determine the limits of freedom of opinion."
"Banning the film would give the handful of Pro Deutschland activists the opportunity to portray themselves as martyrs for freedom of opinion -- and to be proved right in court in the end."
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"If the German authorities bow to the Islamists and forbid the presentation of the film for fear of riots it would be a victory for the extremists.
"We can't prevent Islamists taking power in ever more Arab countries, even if we didn't expect democracy in the region to turn out like that. But we can and must prevent Islamists in Europe from influencing political decisions. The screening of 'Innocence of Muslims' should only be forbidden if this rubbish clearly breaches German law."
Mass-circulation daily Bild writes:
"Should the anti-Islam video that has caused outrage across half the world be banned here in Germany? The answer must be: NO!"
"This is about freedom of opinion in our country. About what may be the most important foundation of our democracy. It is such a valuable asset that it mustn't be touched under any circumstances."
"Burning flags and stormed embassies mustn't sway us from this stance. We may live in the year 2012 with fanatical and extremist Islamists. But centuries divide us in our minds."
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