Danish reactions

While the Muslim world is on fire and Muslims throughout Europe are staging demonstrations demanding respect, there are Muslims in Denmark who are reacting differently, and taking concrete steps to earn that respect.

Arab shops line Vesterbrogade, a main street in downtown Copenhagen. Muhammad, who, like many of the foreigners here, prefers not to give his surname, runs a travel agency specializing in travel to North Africa and the Middle East. "Denmark has never experienced anything like this," he says. Wearing a long black coat, he sits in front of a wall of travel brochures. "The whole thing makes me very uncomfortable. Why should they ruin everything? We're such a peaceful country," he says. For Muhammad, "they" are both the people who deliberately offend religious sensibilities and those who resort to violence, attacking Danish embassies and burning flags. "It hurts me," he says.

Ali, whose family emigrated to Denmark from Afghanistan, is also ashamed of the fact that Danish interests are being attacked, flags burned and foreigners in Arab countries threatened, all in the name of his religion. He sits, smoking, with a Danish friend on a bench in front of a shopping center and says: "I'm shocked by the images." His friend nods.

He has absolutely no sympathy for people like Ahmed Akkari, an imam in the central Danish city of Aarhus, who has only added to the controversy over the cartoons. "He traveled to the Middle East and showed people the wrong cartoons, cartoons that were far worse. They were all lies," explains Knut M. But there aren't many of "those kinds of Muslims" in Copenhagen, he adds.

A new party has sprung up, severing ties with the radical imams.

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.

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.

On the Danish side, two organizations have opened up pages Another Denmark and Reconcilliation Now, urging mutual respect and understanding.

The following is taken from the Reconcilliation Now homepage:
The publication of a number of satirical cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad showed a serious lack of tact and sensitivity in a Denmark, where prejudice is beginning to dominate the public debate. At the same time reactions abroad have shown that many have not understood that it is important to make a distinction between opinions expressed by a Danish newspaper and the opinions of the Danish people as a whole.

Sources: Brussels Journal (English), Jyllands Posten (English), Spiegel (English)

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