Danish Imams Fume at Cartoon Punishment

Danish imams have criticized Immigration Minister Rikke Hvilshoj's call to exclude some of them from integration dialogue in the Scandinavian country over participation in "internationalizing" the cartoons crisis.

Danish Imams Fume at Cartoon Punishment

"We need to start a constructive dialogue [over integration] not vice versa," imam Mohammad Al-Khalid Samha, a member of the European Committee for Prophet Honoring and leader of the Danish Muslim delegation who visited Muslim countries, told IslamOnline.net.

"We are in a dire need now to open a direct dialogue to listen to each other without barriers."

Twelve blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) were published last September by Denmark's mass-circulation Jyllands-Posten.

Angered by the Danish government's lack of response to their protests, Danish Muslim leaders toured a number of Muslim countries with a 43-page dossier, including the 12 cartoons and three other pictures that had been sent to Muslim e-mails by anonymous people.

Hvilshoj said on Wednesday, February 8, that the government would exclude imams who took part in the tour, accusing them of whipping up anti-Danish anger.

"I think we have a clear picture today that it's not the imams we should be placing our trust in if we want integration in Denmark to work," Hvilshoj told the Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

The cartoon crisis triggered an uproar and massive demonstrations across the Muslim world.

Muslims protesting the cartoons set fire to the Danish consulate in Beirut on Sunday and Syrian protesters did the same with the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus a day earlier.

Muslim scholars, organizations and leaders were united in condemning the violent attacks against the embassies.No Exaggeration

Danish-born imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen said integration is impossible without a dialogue.

"I will never shy away from my responsibilities towards my Muslim community, but will continue to engage in dialogue and speak up my mind," he said.

Imam Ahmad Abu Laban, a prominent Muslim figure in Denmark, said the imams did not make much fuss about nothing or tried to incite violent protests over the offensive cartoons.

"We don't seek personal gains out of this," he fumed, expecting Hvilshoj's nervous reaction to cool down with time.

"We are ready to cooperate with the government and the parties concerned for the welfare of our society and Danish Muslims," he said.

Imams who took part in the tour had frequently said they only embark on this trip after their appeals to the government and the newspaper at issue fell on deaf ears.

The Muslim minority, estimated at some 180,000 people, had sued the newspaper, but the lawsuit was rejected by a local court on the grounds of freedom of expression.

Muslims have then taken their case to the attorney general and threatened to raise the issue before the European Human Rights Court.

Also at the outset of the crisis Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen refused to meet the ambassadors of eleven Muslim countries, including heavyweights Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Indonesia, to discuss the crisis.

A total of 58 percent of Danes surveyed in a Megafon poll released Thursday, February 9, said the Danish imams were responsible for the worldwide protests while 22 percent blamed Jyllands-Posten.

A further 11 percent of 1,033 people polled put the blame on Middle East governments.

Just five percent of respondents felt the responsibility lay with the Danish government.

An overwhelming 82 percent said they believed that the imams were hampering immigrants' integration, while a mere six percent said they were helping the process.

Revoking Citizenshih

Stepping up the ante, the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, whose leader Pia Kjaersgaard has called for the deportation of any imam who is not a Danish citizen, came under fire on Saturday, February 11, for demanding the government to revoke Danish citizenship of three Muslim leaders, including Samha.

The other two are Ahmad Akari, the spokesman for the European Committee for Honoring Prophet Muhammad, and Mahmoud Al-Barazi, the head of the Muslim League in Denmark.

The call was rejected by parties in the ruling coalition, who maintained that it was unfair to punish people for expressing different opinions.

"We are in no position to revoke someone's citizenship," Britta Holberg, the representative of the ruling Liberal party in the naturalization committee, told the Information newspaper on Saturday, February 11.

"I cannot punish someone just because s/he thinks differently and it is ridiculous at the first place to grant them Danish citizenship and them revoke it," she said.

Simon Emil, the committee representative of the Social Liberal party, said the call is an attack on free speech.

"Revoking citizenship should not politically motivated," he said. "It makes no sense to reconsider the citizenship of someone because some politicians are not pleased with his/her opinions; otherwise, everyone in this society will really watch their words from now on for fear that their citizenship could be revoked."

In recent days, thousands of Danes have called for peace with the Muslim world.

"I strongly condemn the actions of Jyllands-Posten that have offended Muslims around the world, and I understand the need for an apology from the newspaper," reads an open letter signed by nearly 3,000 Danes.

A group of young Danes have decided last week to set up a Web site to show that many in the country understood the Muslim minority's anger and frustration.

"We are many who believe we can live together and respect each other's culture and identity," said Nikolai Lang.

Source: Islamonline

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
Add Comment