Dozens of Danish Muslims are joining the network of moderate Muslims, the Demokratiske Muslimer (Democratic Muslims). About 700 Muslims have already become DM members and 2,500 Danes have expressed their will to support the network. The initiative has caused anger among the Danish imams and their leader, Ahmad Abu Laban, who have referred to the moderates as “rats.” The imams feel that they are beginning to lose their control over part of the Muslim population.
Moderates such as Kamran Tahmasebi say they have had enough of fanatic Islamism and its intimidation of the Muslim immigrants in Denmark. “It is an irony that I am today living in a European democratic state and have to fight the same religious fanatics that I fled from in Iran many years ago,” Mr Tahmasebi says. He came to Denmark as a refugee in 1989. Today he works as a social consultant and is very grateful for the life Denmark has made it possible for him to have. He says he no longer wants to keep a low profile to avoid attracting the attention of the imams. The cartoon affair was an incentive for him to stand up and warn against the Islamist imams in Denmark, whom he says are damaging the integration process with their misleading criticism of Danish values and norms.
Mr Tahmasebi is one of the people involved in the newly established network of moderate Muslims in Denmark led by Naser Khader, a member of the Danish Parliament. He says he is well aware of the risk he is taking by siding with Mr Khader, who has for a long time been living under police protection. But Mr Tahmasebi feels it is his duty to take part in this debate. “Naser Khader has carried this responsibility for too long. I share his beliefs and now I want to stand up and say so. Apart from that, as a parent I feel a responsibility to fight, so that my children will not have to live under Islamist dogmas. They shall be able to live free in this country.” Mr Tahmasebi adds that he believes the imams are one of the biggest problems Denmark is facing today.
The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, will be meeting the leaders of the moderate Muslims today (February 13) to discuss the cartoon affair. The Danish government has suspended all dialogue and cooperation with the Danish imams on the integration process. Some of the strongest protests against the twelve Muhammad cartoons [see them here, halfway down the page] came from imams who are members of the government’s official integration think tank.
“We want the newspaper [Jyllands-Posten, which published the cartoons last September] to promise that this will never happen again, or this will never stop,” says imam Ahmad Akkari, the spokesman for the radical Muslim organizations in Denmark which led the protest against the cartoons. However, the deliberate lies which imams, such as Abu Laban and Akkari, used to incite worldwide hatred against Denmark have served as a wake-up call for the Danish government.
“I believe it has become obvious that the imams are not the people we should be listening to if we want integration in Denmark to work,” Rikke Hvilshøj, the Danish Integration Minister, has said. The BBC reports that fifteen Muslim countries, from Algeria to Pakistan, are now boycotting Danish products. So far, nearly 200 jobs have been lost in Denmark and more jobs could be endangered if the boycotts continue.
In neighbouring Norway, Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor of the Christian weekly Magazinet which first published the twelve Muhammad cartoons in his country, apologized for offending Muslims by publishing the cartoons. Mr Selbekk and his family received numerous death threats. He said he regretted publishing the cartoons because of all the strain this has put on himself and others and because the consequences were much more than he had expected. He stressed, however, that he could not apologize for using his freedom of expression by publishing the cartoons. Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands-Posten, made the same remark when he apologized for offending Muslims.
Last Friday the government of Sweden, another Scandinavian neighbour of Denmark, shut down the website of the newspaper SD-Kuriren because it had posted Muhammad cartoons. Richard Jomshof, the editor of the paper, which is published by the Swedish far-right party the Swedish Democrats, told the BBC: “This is illegal. They can’t do this just because we are a small magazine.” However, the Swedish Foreign Minister, Laila Freivalds, described the publication as a provocation by “a small group of extremists.” A similar view was taken earlier by the Norwegian government when it criticized Magazinet and Mr Selbekk. The question is what the Swedish government would do if the cartoons are published in one or more Swedish newspapers, as has already happened in other European countries.
Fanatic imams are not only a problem in Denmark. In Britain Hamid Ali, a leading imam of a mosque in West Yorkshire, hailed last summer’s bombing of the London subway as a “good” action. The imam was secretly taped when he was talking to an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times. His words contrast with the public statements of condemnation by Muslim community leaders – including Mr Ali – after the attacks, which killed 56 people. In other words, the Danish imams are not the only imams in Europe who are speaking with two tongues. Indeed, there are indications that the main culprits for the integration problems are the imams, who tend to be much more extremist than many of the ordinary Muslims.