Denmark: Criticism of religion is OK

Denmark: Criticism of religion is OK

Most immigrants want to discuss religion, says the Danish Islamic Faith-Society. Must several politicians fear that democratic values are under pressure.

"It's a bit of an admission of failure if people want to ban criticism of religion," says the spokesperson for the Islamic Faith-Society, Imran Shah. The response comes after Jyllands-Posten wrote based on an opinion survey yesterday that every other immigrant wants to ban attack on religion.

The result of the opinion survey caused the discussion about freedom of speech to blaze up and caused tempers to flare in Christiansborg (parliament). but Imran Shah rejects that immigrants in general want a real change in legislation.

"I think that people should interpret the study as an emotional appeal that people are tired of the different claims about Muslims and immigrants. It's a backlash to the hate campaign that several media and politicians are leading against different religions," he says.

The Islamic Faith-Society strongly opposes a ban on criticism of religion. According to Imran Shaha, criticism is often rooted in ignorance and a debate can therefore give more understanding of the different religions and their meaning for the faithful. The problem is just that the discussion all to quickly becomes not nuanced."

"When people discusses the Jyllands-Postens cartoons, the Muslims didn't want to debate the right to freedom of expression, but rather how intelligent these cartoons were. Instead of coming out with bombastic statements that integration failed and that the immigrants want to end freedom of speech, people should sit down and discuss the problem like adults. The code word was then respect and understanding and it is also now," explains Imran Shah.

Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen notes the language used in the study.

"Attack is destructive, while criticism is constructive. People will naturally always accommodate criticism, but anybody will protect himself against attack. So it doesn't surprise me that so many think we should legislate against an attack on religion. It's something else when we speak of criticism," he explains. If the imam has to come up with an example of a direct attack on religion in movie format, he points to the Dutch 'Submission'.

Although both Imran Shah and Abdul Wahid Pedersen reject that the study is an expression that democratic values are under pressure in Denmark, it's exactly what several politicians see it as. According to Danish news agency Ritzau, the exception is Social Liberal Party integration spokesperson, Morten Østergaard, who doesn't think that the opinion survey should be cause for concern. This got Welfare Minister Karen Jespersen (Liberal Party) upset.

"It runs counter to a fundamental part of the basic values of Danish society. Morten Østergaards attitude is an expression of a deeply problematic tendency where forces in Denmark ally themselves with freedom-hating and anti-democratic movements within Islam," she says to Ritzau.

Earlier this week Morten Østergaard criticized the minister's opposition to the collaboration between the Copenhagen municipality and Abdul Wahid Pedersen.

"If there's something that is not beneficial to the cohesion in Denmark, it's that, when we attempt to invent opposition which doesn't really pervade our daily lives," said Morten Østergaard. He denies that Social Liberal Party wants to change even one iota of freedom of speech.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)

See also: Denmark: 50% of immigrants want to criminalize criticism of religion

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