Odense: Imam inciting against Shia Muslims

Odense: Imam inciting against Shia Muslims

Abu-Alamin, the imam of the biggest mosque in Odense, in Ørbækvej, Vollsmose, is preaching hatred against Shia Muslims, calling them apostates and trying to split up the Muslim community in Odense.

Several sources told Danish newspaper Information that Abu-Alamin uses young criminals to strengthen his position and his sermons resulted in threats and attacks. In the most serious case, a man was attacked for wanting to marry the wrong girl.

On Nov. 6, 2009, Sami, a Shia Muslim, attended a meeting with Abu-Alamin, where he asked the imam whether it was OK that a Shia marry a Sunni. Sami was about to marry a Sunni girl named Amina. The imam answered that it was not allowed, and that if a Shia marries a Sunni, you can kill them.

The mosque's spokesperson, Mohammed Slaiman, says this is an exaggeration and a lie, and that the imam explained in the meeting what are the red lines regarding the Shia Muslims. Abu-Alamin did not want to speak to the press.

Sami was later threatened that if he would complain about Abu-Alamin to the police he would be killed. The threats came from a guy named Ali and his friends, who said that he would be glad to sit in jail for 16 years for that.

Two days later, Ali attacked Ahmed, Sami's friend, with a knife. "Sami should let the girl be," said Ali, "or he'll be killed." Holding a knife to Ahmed's throat, he threatened that "we Sunnis don't give our girls to Shia's, because they are sinners."

The two attacks were reported to the police. But later on several imams, including Abu Hassan from Ørbækvej mosque, met with the parents of those involved, and it was agreed to calm the issue down. When the case came to court in June 2010, both Ahmed and Sami said they couldn't remember anything. They acknowledged their former testimonies to the police and Ali was sentenced for four months in jail.

Sami and Amina fled Odense and got married. Their families support the marriage and decided to ignore Abu-Alamin's protests.

When asked about the issue by Information, mosque spokesperson Mohammed Slaiman was surprised that anybody would be attacked for wanting to get married. "I hadn't heard that a young Shia was attacked. I don't think there are many who have been." He added that you can't solve religious disagreements with violence and that the only way to do so is to speak together reasonably.

After speaking to Abu-Alamin the spokesperson added that there was one case where somebody was attacked, but that it had nothing to do with the imam. The young man acted of his own accord.

Several sources in the Muslim community point to Abu-Alamin as the problem. None wanted their names published, fearing for their family's welfare.

"Abu-Alamin fills the youth with these thoughts, and he incites them to violence," said one Muslim. He said that Abu-Alamin is trying to import conflicts from Iraq into Denmark. "There is violence in the countries we come from, but we don't want to bring it with us. We want to live in peaceful society."

Many people in Vollsmose disagree with Abu-Alamin. One elderly woman told Information: "Sunni or Shia-Muslim they're the same. A Muslim is a Muslim." She herself is Sunni, and her daughter is happily married to a Shia.

"It's completely wrong, that these religious leaders come to the country and gather a group of criminals around them, and then use their power to tell people what is right and wrong.," says Farouk al-Said. "They cause conflict to enhance their position." Farouk al-Said is a practicing Sunni Muslim, but he doesn't go to the Ørbækvej mosque because he disagrees with Abu-Alamin's views.

The mosque is an important social gathering place for many Muslims in Vollsmose and Odense. Several hundred people show up for Friday prayers, many come to pray and talk in the mosque's cafeteria during the week.

Saliha Fettah, a lecturer at the Institute for Middle-Eastern Studies at the University Of Southern Denmark, is also critical of the imam. "Abu-Alamin has a very fundamentalist approach to Islam and quite openly called Shia Muslims heretics."

"Most of those who use the mosque, don't share Abu-Alamin's radical interpretations of Islam," says Saliha Fettah. She says some of the people who go to the mosque started going to other mosques, since they can't deal with the atmosphere created by Abu-Alamin. She thinks that after the Muhammed crisis, those holding extreme viewpoints were strengthened,and Abu-Alamin got more power in the mosque. There were many power struggles, but Abu-Alamin's group won every time.

Most recently, on September 7th, a young Sunni Muslim was refused entrance to the mosque by Abu-Alamin's young followers. When he refused, he was attacked.

Inaam Abou-Khadra was there that day and says Abu-Alamin was upset at the man's sister, who is active in the community and is very popular among young Muslims. "It's a woman who tells things as they are, and who isn't afraid of internal criticism in the Muslim community. Abu-Alamin didn't like that." Since the imam couldn't send the youth after a woman, he went after her brother.

Inaam Abou-Khadra says that some of the young men who serve as the imam's security guard are criminals.

Through his spokesperson, Abu-Alamin tells a different story. The man was acting provocatively, and Abu-Alamin demanded an apology before allowing him into the mosque. The imam denies that young criminals act as guards, and says the young man was only pushed and not beaten up.

Spokesperson Mohammed Slaiman: If you knew how many times we've preached against lying and stealing in the mosque. It doesn't make sense that we would work together with criminals.

Inaam Abou-Khadra says she's shocked such things could happen in a mosque. An imam should be a mediator, somebody that people can respect.

Source: Information (Danish)