Prize for cartoonist Westergaard: Muslims disappointed of Merkel

8 September 2010
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has awarded the Media Prize M100 to the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. In 2005, Westergaard had drawn a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, showing him with a bomb in his turban, which had subsequently caused major upheavals in Europe and the Islamic world. He has received death threats and has been under police protection ever since.
In her speech, Merkel recognised Westergaard’s courage and demanded the consequences of the cartoon publication to be taken as a reminder. Europe should be a place where freedom of speech is possible; “the secret of freedom is courage”, the Chancellor said.
Meanwhile, the Central Council of Muslims condemned the award. Chairman Aiman Mazyek said that such an honour is highly problematic at a time that is already charged and heated. Also the Green Party criticised the move.

Cartoonist’s attacker charged with terrorism

Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who is known for his depiction of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a fuse, was attacked in his home January 1st by a Somali man armed with a knife and an axe. The 28 year old Somali man is now charged with the most severe paragraph of terrorism according to Danish law. The so-called ‘terror-paragraph’ is rarely used and the Minister of Justice has to approve the use of it. He has done so in the case of the attack on Westergaard
The Somali man will not only be indicted on the assault with intent to kill Westergaard but also on assault with intent to kill a police officer who was keeping guard outside Westergaards home.

Is is possible to criticize Islam? Summary of a heated debate in Germany

For a few weeks now, German media have been involved in a heated debate on whether it is possible to Islam and if so, in what way. While some argue for a strong distinction of Islam and Islamism (with only the latter calling for criticism), others hold Islam responsible also for its extremist forms and therefore claim it necessary to criticize the whole of Islam. The first, pro-Islamic position thinks of the other, pro-critique attitude as harshly intolerant, while in return they are accused of being apologetic of suppression and Islamic extremism. Mutual accusations and Nazi-comparisons add to the heat of the debate.

It started in early January 2010, possibly triggered by several events. First, the ongoing discussion on the impact of the Swiss minaret ban, later the attempted murder of caricaturist Kurt Westergaard, but in Germany also the reprint of Henryk Broder’s book “Hurra, wir kapitulieren” (Hooray, we surrender!). Broder, a prominent writer, journalist and very liberalist member of the pro-critique camp, claims that Muslims do not speak out against crimes committed in name of Islam and therefore tolerate and foster extremism. His deliberately provocative writings always stir an emotional debate and did not fail to do so this time.

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, feuilleton chief editor Claudius Seidl strongly argues for distinguishing Islam from Islamism, for not neglecting human rights violations by extreme Islamists, but at the same time recognising the racist potential that the criticism of Islam evidently bears. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung feuilleton, Thomas Steinfeld argues in a similar way against Broder and refers to the intolerant fighters on both sides as “hate preachers”. In the same paper, Wolfgang Benz had warned about right-wing Islam critics who employ the same methods as anti-Semitists in the 19th century. Another article on the pro-Islam side in the tageszeitung by Birgit Rommelspacher is wary of feminist critique that holds a whole religion or culture responsible for suppression, implying a proximity to right-wing and Nazi ideologies, until finally Necla Kelek appears in the debate.

A social scientist and feminist of Turkish background, Necla Kelek is a strong critic of Islam, which she sees as a patriarchal and authoritarian system. Having suffered from this during her childhood, she distanced herself from Islam, while still actively engaging in debates on the topic, also as a Muslim. Her article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a critical account of the criticism of Islam, strongly opposes the previous articles, calls for a criticism of Islam, which she does not regard equal to racism, and vehemently defends “Western values” and liberty as the ultimate resource for all people, including Muslims. Hamed Abdel-Samad claims in Die Welt that criticism of Islam is essential if Muslims are to be taken seriously and especially Muslims themselves must start this debate. Jens Jessen, feuilleton chief editor of Die ZEIT, sums up the main points by asking what was worse, trivialising Islamism or condemning Islam altogether? To what extent could Islam be equated with Islamism? Eventually Jessen calls for a true and analytic understanding of the Islamic religion while not being tolerant of intolerance. On Qantara.de Stefan Weidner provides a summary of the German debate of “Islamkritik” and looks at the role that Muslims play in it.

Al-Shabab tries to recruit young Muslims in mosques, Danish Muslims angry

A number of leaders in the Danish and Swedish Somali community are angry that al-Shabab allegedly tries to recruit young Muslims in mosques in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Göteborg. Muslim parents have temporarily stopped allowing their children to attend Qur’an classes, fearing someone will try to recruit them, a Muslim parent says.

The 28-year old Somali man who tried to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard three weeks ago and the Danish-Somali man who killed 23 people and himself in a suicide attack in Mogadishu in December 2009 were allegedly both affiliated with al-Shabab.

Mosque bans political discussion due to public fears of al-Shabab involvement

The Bellevue mosque in Gothenburg has banned political discussion on the premises. The new policy states that all politics are to be kept outside of the mosque and its congregation, and that no one can stay in the mosque after a fifteen minutes period before and after prayers, to prevent “unofficial meetings and ambiguous messages.”

The mosque has been of interest since it was reported that the man who attacked Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and another Danish-Somali man, who later died in a suicide bombing in Moghadishu, visited it to recruit young men for al-Shabab.
Xasaan Xuseen, one of the organization’s spiritual leaders, allegedly promised mosque representatives and Swedish Secret Police (SÄPO) that they would not discuss any political issues during the conference.

Politician uses Muhammad cartoon as Facebook profile

Ulf Erik Knudsen of the right-wing Fremskrittspartiet (Frp) uses the infamous cartoon of Kurt Westergaard on his Facebook account.

“I use it as a sign of sympathy with someone that’s been threatened by forces that wants to limit our freedom of speech,” Knudsen says.

Pakistani protest against cartoon publications

The parliament of Pakistan and several Pakistani Muslim organizations protested against the decision of Norway’s Aftenposten to re-publish Kurt Westergaard’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the publication.

Editor in chief Hilde Haugsgjerd says the protests were to be expected.

Al-Shabab recruiting in Sweden

According to Swedish secret police (SÄPO) at least twenty Swedish-Somalis are suspected to be “radicalized”, and some of them are to been killed in action in Somalia.

Sydsvenska Dagbladet (independent liberal) reports that Swedish Somalis are worried about al-Shabab activity in country. The 28-year old who made an attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard two weeks ago is reported to have been in Sweden together with another Danish-Somali man who was later killed in a suicide attack in Mogadishu in December 2009. Al-Shabab is suspected to have been recruiting in Sweden’s three main cities – Malmoe, Gothenburg, and Stockholm – where the largest Somali populations are to be found.

According to Göteborgsposten (liberal) the two men visited two mosques in Gothenburg last winter, and Expressen (liberal) reports a mosque in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby has been visited by representatives from the organization. Abdi Rahman Sheik Muhjadin, Imam in a “liberal Muslim” congregation on Gothenburg, says he’s not surprised that al-Shabab has been coming to Swedish mosques and as a precaution, he continues, they won’t let their children attend Qur’an school for the time being, in fear of them being misguided.

Farah Absisamad, chairman of the Swedish Somali National Union, is calling for stricter laws against terrorism to prevent al-Shabab’s activity in Sweden.

Liberal Muslims support Danish cartoonist

The Liberal Muslim network LIM (Equality, Integration, Diversity) supports the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and challenges the Norwegian Islamic Council (Islamisk Råd) and the Muslim Student Organization (Muslimsk Studentersamfunn) to join them in a manifestation against religious violence and in support of the freedom of speech.

LIM representatives say conservative Muslims and organizations, such as the Islamic Council and MSO dominates Norwegian media and help create an image of Islam in Norway as traditionalist and lacking respect for democratic values.

Shakil Rehman from LIM is also critical of the Vice President of the Norwegian Parliament, Akhtar Choudhry, for calling the publication of Westergaards cartoons wrong. It’s not wrong, Rehman says, it’s just a manifestation of an opinion. Muslim leaders opposing the publications live in another time and age, he continues, Muhammad opposed portraits of him because he didn’t want his followers to idolize him, but to paint his portrait to depict his humanity is in compliance with his teachings.

Danish cartoonist attacked in his home Jan. 1, 2010

Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who is known for his depiction of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a fuse, was attacked in his home January 1st by a Somali man armed with a knife and an axe.

In February 2008 the Danish Security and Intelligence Service arrested two Tunisian citizens and a Danish citizen who they suspected of planning to kill Westergaard. Since then Westergaard’s house has been heavily fortified and is under close police protection. Police officers were also attacked by the intruder and shot him in the right leg and left hand. He was hospitalized, but not seriously injured, police said.

The 28-year-old Somali man will probably be charged not only with trying to kill Westergaard and attacking police officers but also with planning terror-related activities. Danish intelligence officials said the suspect is connected to the radical Islamist al-Shabaab militia, sympathizes with al-Qaida, and has been under surveillance by the Danish Intelligence Service for some time.

The Danish-Muslim Union condemns the attack and every form of extremism. Also the Muslim Council of Denmark condemns the attack on Kurt Westergaard and says “violence is by no means acceptable. Actions of this sort are irreconcilable with Islam”.