Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, a Red-Green Alliance candidate for the Danish parliament, was one of a group of young Danish Muslims from Syddansk University in Odense who participated in a 40-day intensive Islam course in Dar ul Mustafa (a well known Islamic school) in Tarim, Yemen, according to Jyllands-Posten.
Among the lecturers in the course, which was arranged by Muslimer i Dialog (Muslims in Dialog), was Habib Ali Al-Jifry (Al-Jifri), who is a founder of the Tabah foundation for Islamic Studies and Research. The Tabah Foundation was active during the Mohammed cartoon crisis in building bridges between Danes and Muslims. [The Tabah foundation is also involved in funding a Grand Mosque for Copenhagen].
Saliha Marie Fettah who teaches Arabic at Syddansk University in Odense and is herself a Muslim says she takes part in Arabic courses annually in Yemen and knows the area. She has been to Tarim and says that it's a small town where women don't walk out in the streets and that it's quite a long way from modern Danish society. She therefore dissuades young Danish Muslims from taking part in the Islam courses.
Fettah says that it's a traditional koran school of exclusively religious education and that there's nothing there that can be used in a modern society like Denmark's. The youth need to find how Islam can fit in Danish society and that isn't possible in such a school.
Abdol-Hamid said in a press release that Koran schools make people think of Taliban and terrorism, but in her case it was merely discussions of their religion.
Asmaa Abdol-Hamid explains that she took part in the school's lectures on the proper behavior for Muslims. She had travelled to Yemen in order to study the social infrastructure and equality between men and women. She says it's a completely different world and that she came back home with many things. She experienced having to cover her face, which was quite hard for her, and she had made a fuss over refusing to cover her face during the course.
The courses were criticized for being oppressive towards women but Abdol-Hamid says that she challenged religious norms which she had found unreasonable in the course. For example, she did not accept that female participants had to sit in the back or that she had to wear a niqab. She says that the unreasonable attitude towards women she had seen in Yemen strengthened her opinion that it was important to fight for women's rights.
Spokesperson for Muslimer i Dialog Zubair Butt Hussain did not wish to comment and referred reporters to the association's website. The site says that the course, which this year took place June 27-August 12th, is supposed to give young Muslims "insight into the basics of Islam, strengthern their faith, give them tools to work with their inner self and function in a non-Muslim society". The course focuses on tafseer (koranic commentary), hadith (oral traidtion), fiqh (islamic law), sulook (sufi philosophy), dawah (prostelyzation) and hifz (memorizing the koran). Muslimer i Dialog says that about 70-80 western students took part in the course.
Abdol-Hamid's party refused to comment.
Sources: Politiken 1, 2 (Danish)
See also: Denmark: Feminist, socialist, devout Muslim