May 29, 2015 / 12:28 PM / 4 years ago

Croatia festival to stage Houellebecq play despite security concerns

The book "Soumission" (Submission) by French author Michel Houellebecq is displayed in a bookstore in Paris January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

ZAGREB (Reuters) - The Dubrovnik Summer Festival will go ahead and stage a play by French author Michel Houellebecq, reversing a decision to cancel it after police voiced concerns for security because he has stirred controversy over his critical views of Islam.

“The festival’s council has confirmed this year’s program, which will include the play Les Particules Elementaires,” the culture ministry told Reuters in an emailed statement on Friday.

Festival spokeswoman Karla Labas, however, said the play, due to open in July, would be held under police security.

“We don’t quite know what it will look like but we are confident the police will do a professional job,” she said.

Earlier this year, the Dubrovnik county prefect asked Croatia’s intelligence service and police for a security assessment. Police replied that Houellebecq’s play would represent a security risk, without elaborating.

Houellebecq caused an outcry in France with his latest novel Soumission (Submission) that imagines a Muslim president winning the French presidency in 2022 and enforcing religious schooling and polygamy in France while banning women from working.

The day the book went on sale, Jan. 7, Islamist militants claiming to be avenging media lampooning of the Prophet Mohammed killed 12 people in a shooting attack on the Paris offices of the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The Dubrovnik festival’s management first said it would heed the police recommendation. This elicited protests from cultural circles, who said the play had nothing to do with Islam and the cancellation reflected poorly on the festival.

“The council eventually voted in favor, particularly after the city of Dubrovnik and the ministry of culture agreed to provide some more funds,” Labas said, referring to additional costs of having police security.

Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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