Croatia festival cancels Houellebecq play on security concerns

Thu May 14, 2015 6:31am EDT
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ZAGREB (Reuters) - The Dubrovnik Summer Festival has canceled a planned premiere of a play by French author Michel Houellebecq, known for stirring controversy with his views of Islam, after police said it would present a security concern.

The play, based on his novel Les Particules Elementaires, was to open in Dubrovnik in July but the Dubrovnik county prefect had asked the intelligence service and police for a security assessment.

A police statement said the service concluded the show would represent a security risk.

"They did not use the word 'terrorism' but that's what it is," the Festival spokeswoman Karla Labas said on Thursday.

"The assessment is confidential and we'll never see it but I think it was the combination of the author's latest novel, the Charlie Hebdo attack and the proximity of Bosnia," Labas said.

Bosnian Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam but some have become radicalized since the 1992-95 war and have been involved in several armed incidents in the country in the last few years. The government estimates up to 200 have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State group.

Houellebecq caused an outcry in France with his latest novel Soumission (Submission), which tells an imaginary tale of a France run by a Muslim president in 2022, whose victory throws the country in turmoil.

The same day it hit the bookstores on Jan.7, Islamist militants claiming to be avenging the Prophet killed 12 people when they attacked the Paris offices of satirical weekly news magazine Charlie Hebdo.

"This play has nothing to do with Islam, but obviously it didn't matter. We are now scrambling to find a replacement play. It is actually good the assessment was published now, rather than on the opening day, which would have cause an even bigger scandal," Labas said.   Continued...

French author Michel Houellebecq sits on stage of the Schauspiel Koeln, the public theater of the western German city of Cologne January 19, 2015. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay