The Flemish Culture Minister, Sven Gatz (Open Vld), has requested a meeting with the management of NTGent, a Ghent theatre. The theatre published an advert on Wednesday, in which it expressed a wish to seek former Islamic State fighters in Syria to produce a play. The initiative aroused a fair number of reactions in Flanders on Wednesday. Questioned upon the controversy during a plenary session of the Flemish parliament, Minister Gatz made no attempt to hide his uneasiness.
From the ad: “Do you fight for your convictions? For God? Did you fight for IS, for other religions?”
He commented, “Artistic freedom is important I grant you, but it also has its limits. Moreover these limits are also stipulated by the Belgian Criminal Code.” He reiterated that “returnees” are prosecuted in Belgium, and are generally arrested by the police. He reminded parliament that inciting hatred, even on a theatre stage, is punishable by law.
Beyond these legal considerations, the theatre initiative raises moral considerations, notably regarding victims of Islamic State. The minister further said, “I am expecting a lively and frank discussion” with the theatre management.