Following the issuance of an Islamic Fatwa by a British-based Islamic Shari' Ah against playwright Terrence McNally, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) said the department would not comment on the matter.
Being the subject of a Fatwa is a serious matter, and is widely viewed by Westerners as a death sentence. The British Theatre News broke the story Oct. 31 and reported that the NYPD had informed McNally of the situation.
"We don't discuss security issues," the officer said. "When you're talking about bomb threats or threats to life, we take all necessary precautions that we need to take, but we definitely don't discuss them." The NYPD would not even acknowledge that it knew of such a Fatwa.
As reported earlier, the playwright's controversial Corpus Christi caused a media controversy when it opened last year in New York. The recent Islamic Fatwa was issued following the play's opening there at London's Pleasance Theatre.
There is some confusion over the source and legitimacy of the Fatwa and whether or not it can only be carried out in a Muslim state. A spokesman from the Islamic Cultural Center and Central London Mosque told Playbill On-Line that there are many mainstream Muslims who consider the source of the McNally Fatwa, the Shari' Ah Court of the UK, as a fundamentalist splinter group, and that it should not be confused with the two established Shari' Ah Councils in London
The British Theatre News reported on Oct. 31 that the Shari' Ah Court had issued the Fatwa against McNally, "over his 'Gay Christ' play Corpus Christi.... Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammed, the Court's Judge, said the Fatwa was issued as 'those who are insulting to Allah and his messengers must learn that it is a crime,'" the British service said.
McNally's agency, William Morris told Playbill On-Line, "We have no comment and he has no comment." McNally is typically reticent with the press.
McNally's Corpus Christi depicts a modern, Christ-like figure as being gay and having sexual relations with his disciples. When Off Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club announced they would present the play, the resulting outcry against the play (including anonymous death and bomb threats) caused the theatre to briefly cancel the drama's run. Protests from the art community resulted in the reinstatement of the production. During its run, the show was subject to various sidewalk protests by Catholic and other groups, and audiences were forced to pass through a metal detector. The play itself received lukewarm reviews from the critics.
-- By Murdoch McBride