The German government wants to ban a right-wing group from showing the controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" in the nation's capital.
The right-populist Burgerbewegung pro Deutschland, which reportedly has only a few hundred members, claims it has a full-length copy of the film and wants to show it in a Berlin movie theater or warehouse in November. The party did show the scenes from the film on its website briefly on Monday. Parties in the far-right and right-populist camps share a vehement anti-Islam platform.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that the government must first check to see whether a public screening would endanger public safety, according to reports. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he expected that the screening would be prohibited for that reason, since it could be seen as a provocation. The release online of a 14-minute trailer dubbed in Arabic has sparked deadly riots and attacks on Western institutions, primarily in Islamic states.
At issue in Germany is whether a ban would amount to an attack on free speech. Merkel and Friedrich have both said that they are not seeking to ban the film outright, but rather its public screening in the capital. Others have argued for a total ban and accused the rightist party with aiming to incite violence. German law prohibits public abuse of religious beliefs with the aim to disturb the peace.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Nurhan Soykan, expressed concern that a screening might spark violent attacks there from right-wing and Islamic extremists, and generate racist abuse against Muslims in Germany.
Meanwhile, the German news agency dpa reported that Germany has officially banned right-wing American pastor Terry Jones from entering the country. Jones had been invited by the Pro Deutschland party to show the film in Germany. His act of burning copies of the Koran in 2010 spurred violent protests.
In 2006, Merkel backed the Deutsche Opera in Berlin when it decided, despite warnings from a German law enforcement agency, to go ahead with a staging of Mozart's "Idomeneo" that included the beheading of Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad and the handing out of the heads to the audience. The performances went off without a problem.
The current controversy involves neither art nor political cartoons, which German law would protect, but a film with the apparent intent to incite fear of Islam and Muslims.