Denmark: Imams split, do not represent Muslims

There are as many different Islamic denominations in Denmark as there are Christian, and many imams fear being met with skepticism if they speak publicly.  These are some of the reasons why it's impossible to find a unified Muslim voice in the social debates, according to the first PHD thesis on imams in Denmark.

It was very misleading that imam Abu Laban of the Islamic Faith Society showed up as the spokesperson for the country's Muslims during the Mohammed crisis.

Many of the imams in Denmark belong to three different ethnic groups and within each group there are many different religious denominations, which don't always agree with each other.

This according to Inge Liengaard, PHD at the Theological Faculty at Aarhus University, who is the first Danish research to have prepared a deep analysis of imams from all ethnic groups in Denmark.

Liengaard says that Abu Laban was a shrewd politician in many ways.  He was used to grabbing the opportunity to get a message across in the media, and many Danes are under the impression that he was the Muslim's spokesperson in Denmark.  In reality he represented a small group of Muslims, who are mostly of Arab background.  Many other Muslims disagree with his interpretation of Islam.

The researcher has interviewed 20 of the most powerful imams and has analyzed their mutual relations of leaders of the country's mosques.  She has found out that most mosques are organized according to ethnic groups with Arab, Turkish and Pakistani mosques being the most widespread.

Within every group there are different religious subgroups, just as people know from the different denominations in Christianity among the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches.

Muslim's ethnicity has meaning for both cooperation and competition between mosques. Imams and mosques typically barely work together across ethnic lines, aside from specific cases such as for example for a Muslim cemetery.  During the Muhammed crisis people spoke mainly with the Arab imams and did not pay attention to the Turkish and Pakistani imams.  It's thought provoking.  First that they weren't asked, and second that they did not feel the need to step forward.
Mostly people ignore other ethnic groups and are only in competition with mosques who turn to the same potential customers, with the same language and the same cultural and historical background.

Liengaard explains that denominations among Muslims are related to where they come from.  A Turk and Arab imam don't address the same public.  First, there are two different languages, and there are many cultural, social and historical relations that cause a Turk to prefer to go to a Turkish mosque, when he does so.  Therefore the internal competition is strongest.

The sharp division between imams in Denmark is part of the explanation why people never hear Muslims speak in one unified voice in the public debate.

On the whole, imams seldom involve themselves in social debates, as Abu Laban did during the Muhammed crisis both in Denmark and abroad.  This is because many consciously hold back from getting involved.

Turkish imams generally keep a low profile, because they are educated in secular Turkey and many are sent out through the Turkish religion ministry.  They do not want to publicly get involved in the Danish situation.  Many other imams are concerned they would end up on the front page of BT or Ekstra Bladet if they speak publicly.

Liengaard says that it's become so difficult to be a Muslim and have religious point of view in Denmark, that imams have difficulty to speak out without looking bad.  They can't say anything without it being used against them.  Many therefore think that no attention is better than bad attention.

One of Liengaards conclusions in her thesis is that even if imams usually attract attention from the press, they continue to be isolated at the sidelines of Danish society.  And this is done by the Danish themselves.

As leaders of mosques, imams are often seen as strong, Muslim authorities.  But only 10% of Danish Muslims go to Friday prayers in a mosque.  Therefore, every imams in reality represents only a limited section of the country's 200,000 Muslims.  Imams find themselves in a paradoxical situation: one the one hand they are viewed by the Danish public as influential, because they are religious authorities.  On the other hand, they are disqualified as debaters in the public debate because they are religious authorities.

This means that imams, unlike priests, find it more difficult to use their authority to get influence in other areas of society.  For example, it's hard to image an imam as a member of a board or council.

Liengaard, says that there is no symbolic capital associated with being an imam in relation to the surrounding society.  Internally in Muslim circles it might be recognized, but more generally they are not viewed as positive contributors to society.  Imagine an imams on the board of Aarhus University.  It's impossible, she says, referring to the Danish bishop Kjeld Holm.

The imams are otherwise at least as well educated as their Danish 'colleagues'.  Liengaard's interview shows that many have prolonged religious education of between seven and thirteen years.  They typically start at a religious high school and later continue on to a religious university.  Some, mostly Arab, imams have shorter religious education, but on the other hand also have a secular education as, for example, historians, engineers or metalworkers.

Source: Videnskab (Danish)

See also: Europe: Morocco sends imams for RamadanGermany: Most imams unable to help integration


Anonymous said...

Note that there's no real ideological difference listed in this article, but rather, the imams are divided along ethnic lines. That's because Muslims only differ in terms of who they think should be the aliph, whther to stone or behead, etc. Yeah, Muslims are racist. How is that news? It's an inherently supremacist ideology,

Esther said...

Hi jdman13,

There is an ideological difference listed, actually. As mentioned Abu Laban, a radical extremist, as well as his successors, are not accpeted by most Muslims. Several Muslim organizations, both Turkish and pan-Muslim, have publicly announced that.

And yet, when the media wants to interview an imam, who do you think they go to? Usually, Pedersen, the radical Danish convert.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it odd that radical imams who have been ousted from every Muslim country never fail to find a home and a audience in the free world? The problem seems to be the most pervasive in Australia, and America is a close second. I can never keep the names of these imams straight, quite honestly. They all start with Abu or Abd and are like 5 words long. I did get the impression reading the article that the Turkish imam was popular among Turks because he was Turkish, not because he was more moderate. I also think that a lot of Muslims at least sympathize with radical Islam until it becomes intolerant of them because they eat a turkey sandwich or don't wear a burka or something. Only then do they find it off-putting, but as long as it's just anti-Semitic, homophobic, and misogynistic it's ok. But I also fail to see how any brand of Islam isn't radical, since it's an inherently intolerant, supremacist ideology. Even the Sufis are all about the evil Koran.

Esther said...

Hi jdamn13,

I got your point that you think Islam is an inherently intolerant, supremacist ideology and that there's nothing any Muslim can do besides renouncing Islam to prove to you differently. Please don't copy that on every article I post.

Hanz said...

Peace for everybody,
Islam has one master reference, Quran and correct Hadiths, and then some interpretations of well-known Islamic researchers who tried (honstly and rigioursly) to interpret and give FATWA for situations where ppl are comfused in.

These references are the basics of Islam beleives and Muslims live, and these references are historically documented (I mean the FATWA, and of course not the Quran and Hadith which came from Muhammad PBUH) with ppl who are well known historically. This means these books are not just found in a grave, or so and then taken to be a reference.

Well, based on that, muslims in europe shoud not be comfused or have different voices. and if they do, it is theri problems not Islam's problem.

Islam, as I learnt from these references, is very tolerable, and basically does not call for racism. One of the very basic principle of Islam is that calls against racism. I dunno how jdam1 think it is!!

all ppl in Isalm have are brothers whatever their ethinic or their position. they are absolutly only rated by their faith. This is clearly stated in Quran and Hadith, it is not my interpretation. Muslims could be different in the food they eat, in the cloths they wear, in the language they talk..etc, and this has nothing to do with their unified faith and beleives.

jdamn13, Please let us think and be sure of what we say, before we say it.

Anonymous said...

hanz, please don't patronize me by using the third-person imperative with me like some psychopath housewife baby factory who hasn't left solitary confinement in 10 years.

And how does "pushing the Jews into the sea," using the same word for both "slave" and "black person," calling blacks "raisinheads" and "Allah's dumbest creatures," and comparing them to feces qualify as "tolerant" and not "call[ing] for racism?"

Let’s not forget Islam’s lovely attitude to non-Muslims:

-Don’t be friends with Jews or Christians or allah will reject you.

-When you meet an infidel cut off his head...

-Slay the idolators wherever you find them..

-Fight until all the religion is allah’s etc, etc

-Kill apostates (who of course become members of other religions or atheists—more Islamic tolerance)

Horrendous laws for dhimmis - mainly Jews and Christians, who are allowed to live as 3rd class citizens, subjugated under vile Islamic laws:

-Dhimmis must pay the jizya tax being humbled, humiliated and tapped on the neck to remind them that they will be beheaded if they dare step out of line.

-No building of religious sites or openly practising their religion.

-No authority over Muslims.

-No weapons.

-Dhimmi houses must be smaller and lower than Muslim houses.

-Dhimmis have to dress differently.

-Dhimmi testimony is not valid against a Muslim.

-Dhimmis must be humble in front of Muslims, give up their seat etc...

-Dhimmis must house and feed Muslim soldiers (i.e., they must invite those who will undoubtedly slit their throats into their own homes)

And the incredible racism:

-Mohammad is a white man.

-Arabs are the best of people.

-Mohammad had black slaves and likened a dream of a black woman to an epidemic.

-Kill the Jews.

-Kill the Turks and people with flat faces and small eyes ..

-At judgement, people with white faces go to paradise but those with black faces go to hell.

You've got some more reading to do, hanz.