CAIRO - A musical opera about Jesus Christ has been shelved in southern Russia following complaints from devout Christians that the play defames Christianity and hurts their religious sensitivities.
We have no choice, Svetlana Zhabina, deputy director of the Rostov Philarmonic Theater, told Russia Today.
Now, we have to wait for the decision from the city authorities.
The opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, was scheduled to be premiered in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on October 18.
But Christians complained that the play presents a distorted image of Jesus Christ.
In our view the image of Christ presented in the opera is incorrect, an offended Christian told Life News.
If they want to stage a play about the life of the Savior, they should first clear it with the local church authority.
Now that there is a law for these offenses, we have decided to appeal to the state for help.
A group of residents have sent a complaint to Russian prosecutors and the theatre to protest the show.
"As it stands, the work is a profanity," the complaint said.
An investigation was launched by Russian prosecutors into the complaints.
"A probe is under way, and subsequently the appropriate decision will be taken," a spokesperson for the Rostov prosecutors told the Interfax news agency.
The show has been a major, worldwide hit since its first performance in the early 1970s.
The opera tells the story of events leading up to the alleged crucifixion of Jesus.
The decision to suspend the show has sparked uproar in Russia.
"We are shocked that someone has demanded that the musical be cancelled," an employee of the Philharmonic told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.
Valentina Vaulina, a booker for the musical, was also critical.
The opera has been performed for decades and has been recognized as a masterpiece, she said.
To talk about it from a religious point of view is unnecessary. Opera should be treated as art.
The Russian Orthodox Church has distanced itself from calls for banning the musical.
"The so-called Orthodox activists are expressing only their own opinion which is not shared by the Church," Igor Petrovsky, spokesman for the Church in the Rostov region, said.
He said many priests and believers had been grateful to hear the musical when it was first performed in the atheist Soviet Union and "hear something nice and beautiful about Christ".
I'd like to note this is the opinion of some citizens, and not actually the official stance of the Church, Petrovsky said.
Maybe they should have got a blessing from their priest before firing off a complaint.
The uproar echoes a similar controversy in the Muslim world over a US-made film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
The film triggered protests around the world, prompting calls for enacting laws to ban insults against prophets and the defamation of religions.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur'an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.