religion and the arts

Apology for performance stop over Koran quotes

Following a wave of criticism, the artistic director for Stockholm’s premier cultural venue, Kulturhuset, has apologized for hastily cancelling a feminist performance last weekend in which women were set to dance to a score that included recitation of verses from the Koran set to music.

In a blog posting Thursday, the head of Kulturhuset, Eric Sjöström, said his decision to cancel part of a two-day performance piece entitled “Celebration of Womanhood” was taken under duress and that he regrets the action. A heated debate had broken out on Facebook Sunday following a dress rehearsal for the show, and Sjöström said he ordered the stop out of concerns for public safety.

One of Sjöström’s sharpest critics this week has been the musician and former Abba star Björn Ulvaeus, a secular humanist who has earlier denounced excessive religious influence in public affairs. Ulvaeus writes that there is now “an unofficial prohibition against blasphemy” that only applies to Islam, and that Kulturhuset had put religious sensitivities ahead of art, free speech and women’s rights.

Organizers now say the event will go forward in May under the title “Public Security — or the Culture of Fear,” but that the piece with the Koran quotes has been stricken. The choreographer for the show has reportedly pulled out.