Denmark: Islam critic attacked, gets death threats

Denmark: Islam critic attacked, gets death threats

Via Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish):

A 79 year old former church pastor in Denmark, a critic of Islam and author, has been beaten and threatened four time by young men of Muslim background over the past 6 years. Since he was asked by the police to keep a low profile, he doesn't want his name published. He's refused police protection, because 'you can't live like a free man that way', he told Kristeligt Dagblad.

The last two attacks took place after he led a hearing in parliament on Iran's violations of human right, two years ago.

"Ten days after the hearing, a young man came and beat me down with two punches. A short while after that another young man came and beat me. Both times they called 'Allahu akbar', after they assaulted me. I was 77 years old then and couldn't defend myself," the former Pentecostal pastor says. He's written 43 books, including a book on the Christian mission which has been published in 23 countries and sold 10 million copies.

The first attack was six years ago, when a Lebanese man rang his doorbell, threatened him with a knife and said he had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon and had come to murder him. The pastor then succeeded in convincing the man not to go through with it. The man got 12 months in prison. The pastor was since threatened once more by a man of immigrant background.

Despite the attacks, the former pastor isn't afraid, he says. But when he goes out, he's on guard.

"It affects me in such a way that I look back when I walk on the street, and I don't open the door, without knowing who's standing outside. But my wife and I are both personally Christians and that means that there isn't so much to be afraid of."

His story is the latest in a series of reports (see here and here) about priests and Christian converts in Denmark who have been threatened by people of Muslim background.

Islam researcher and professor at Roskilde University (RUC), Garbi Schmidt, says these incidents show that the risk of criticizing Islam has increased. Schmidt says that in the 15 years she's studies Islam in Denmark, there's been no talk of such thing. So there is definitely an intensification of how people can be personally attacked after being critical of Islam.

Garbi Schmidt emphasizes that it's difficult to say whether those youth of immigrant background who commit the assaults have a religious motive, but that it's going a step further when it goes from verbal assault to physical violence.

The experience of the former parish pastor is that it's particularly risky to criticize Islam. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a prominent figure in the struggle for freedom of religion in the communist countries and was arrested 11 times for being a Christian activist.

"But communism was nothing compared to Islam. Now I'm sought in my home and subjected to death threats. I was never threatened this way in the past," he says.