Written by Gates of Vienna
On Thursday, August 22, 2013 Ahmed Akkari was the featured speaker at a meeting of the Free Press Society (Trykkefrihedsselskabet) in Copenhagen. It's worth noting that between August 22 and yesterday — a period of four days — "Danish" mujahideen in Syria managed to record and distribute a video of themselves shooting at a photo of Ahmed Akkari taken at the Free Press Society meeting. Mr. Akkari was part of a lineup of illustrious Danish targets that included Morten Storm, Lars Hedegaard, Naser Khader, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Kurt Westergaard. Below is the english transcript of the video.
I would like to welcome you - can you hear me?
I would like to welcome you to the Free Press Society, for an evening with Ahmed Akkari, an evening we have named "A former Islamist speaks up".
"The former Islamist Ahmed Akkari", it rings entirely new to be able to present him like this. The last time most of us heard of Akkari was in 2005-6, when he was one of the most prominent opponents of the Muhammad cartoons, and thus of freedom of expression.
Now we hear that he supports free expression, he defends the cartoonists, and he has apologized for his behaviour towards Naser Khader and Kurt Westergaard. As is well known, the purpose of the Free Press Society ever since 2004 has been to defend freedom of speech. And during the years it has caused us great concern to note that freedom of expression is being amputated.
We now have fear of expression here in Denmark. Cartoonists, editors and Islam-critical authors have been subject to threats and assaults. Fear now dominates their lives, and they have lost a great deal of their freedom. When the Muhammad cartoonists have to live in fear today, this is not least due to the Muhammad crisis, and the mendacious agitation done by the imams against Denmark in the Middle East. And to set things straight, and I believe you can handle that, Ahmed, you carry part of the responsibility for this development.
But today things have been turned around, today Ahmed Akkari is hit by the Islamist threat culture. Ahmed Akkari has received death threats, among others from the Jihadist Abu Khattab, or however his name is pronounced. And it is quite logical, this is ancient experience, that defecting can put your life at risk.
Those were the words from me, I will now give the floor to Ahmed Akkari, please.
Good evening everybody, and thanks for the invitation. I am not quite sure I deserve all your attention. But it could be that in my life's journey, in my experiences, there might be something of use to some of you, or to others, in order that the society that several of you have been working for can continue to exist and even improve, and remain a shining example of an oasis in the world, and this is why, in case some of you wonder, why I keep standing up and say "Yes", and am in the process of writing about these experiences, it is because I believe this is the least that I owe the country that showed hospitality to my parents once, when after a protracted civil war my father had to give up his business and what he was doing, and on the way to Australia had to choose a country, and he chose Denmark, for he felt that this was a small country, where few immigrants and people with the same culture would come.
(SEE VIDEO RESPONSE FROM ISLAMISTS)
It was the same country which after 2006 became deeply offended by me and others, rightfully so, because I brought an issue that had to do with Denmark to countries abroad, to the entire world. It was as if I tried to say, "I do not join the Social Contract", to have my criticism tried in a court, as anyone can do, in case someone says something and others believe he went too far, then can protest the way you do, within the framework set out, within the social contract we all have signed up to, we don't go chopping people's heads off with axes, and we don't try to bring the whole world down on them, on the country or on those persons. That was something I participated in.
But still I was able to travel into and out of Denmark. Going down the street, someone would raise his middle finger, if someone walked past me all angry at me. Or point at me saying: "You scumbag" or "The Devil walks there", or things like that. But I still had my fundamental individual rights, and at that time I had become a legal Danish citizen.
It was only after I started to see much more of the world, in 2007, that I came to feel in my own body what it feels to be an apprentice imam.
how it was to be in these religious institutions, that would smile at you, but at the same time be plotting things to their own advantage, it was a whole lot of small experiences, which I will also write about in my book, that eventually made me get the shock necessary for me, to start comparing what happened there to what was happening in Denmark.
But that was not enough. I did not start harbouring doubts about the Islamist thoughts, not at that time. It was not Islam or the fundamental mindset of Muslims, that was wrong; it was just some rotten persons, some rotten religious leaders, some corrupted societies; there was no more in it to me.
There [upon arriving in Greenland] they also received me as the person I was, which they also told later, Johanne Bilman-Egede, the principal of my school up there, has said so to several media, "We accepted him as the person we saw at that time, not based on his past."
How great an impression this made on me! That these people we able to tolerate this much.
Then, when I started reading some intellectuals, also out of the Middle East, who had started to write in a sober manner about the criticism of what could be called the religious rhetoric of Islamists, the misuse of power and other things, that I started to understand the meaning of what philosophers and thinkers have asked through the ages, if not God - as they said - Will Dronde has that in his book about the Renaissance, a philosopher of the Enlightenment who says:¨ "Everyone talks of God, but in reality desire power."
But I have been part of some movements and ideas that today I can see that many citizens still are stunningly naïve about.
What is the Social Contract? It is that which binds us. We have, most of us, an implicit understanding that when we are citizens of Denmark, some common rules do apply, a common responsibility, some common values, and it is this that binds, this is the contract; it is quite fundamental. And that means that one works to defend democracy and its values in the Danish model, against enemies from without, as well as enemies who seek to harm it from within.
Those people do not think like that. Rather, they think:
"How can I support an organization somewhere else, and up yours, society of pig-lovers."
Some people really do think like that.
There is a Social Contract in Denmark. The idea is that we make these new immigrants, who by now are called "new Danes", that we make them understand the social contract. One thing is to have a faith, a religion, some imagination, something different to entrench oneself hard into
certain ideologies and ideas, as is also happening within Islam, and in that way contribute to discard part of that foundation.
Papers like Politiken [liberal Danish daily] would be the first victims of these Islamist societies and groups. I think it is a shame that because Denmark is so open, confident, understanding, giving so much, that this is where one suddenly decides to establish Caliphate states; Jews and Christians are being attacked, and now the agenda is to be set in one way or another. I do not consider that reasonable.
I would love to discuss with them. I am not standing here slinging mud due to my distance from them; I would like to debate with them.
For I know that many of them are able to move, able to understand what I am saying, if only they can get a proper feeling for it. For this is what serves them best, this is what serves their children best, to join freedom of expression, to join the social contract. This only increases my confidence that some of those things I have been involved in might possibly lead to something good. These are my thoughts, these are my ponderings.
And one more time: I really do not believe I deserve all that attention, but now that I stand here on this podium, you get the chance to discuss,
be entirely critical, and say whatever is on your minds.
I will do my best to reflect upon it, and respond as well as I can. Again thanks for the invitation, thanks for listening, and thanks for letting me join.
You have also said that for years you did not visit a mosque.
I would like to ask you now, after your conversion:
How can you, as a Muslim, now supporting democracy and civil liberties, not least freedom of expression, how can you and others of similar mindset practice your faith, which mosques will receive you, where you can practice your faith? Islam is a world religion like others. The problem being that some have monopolized the personal understanding of it.
In this sense I mean that I intend to appeal to those persons, watching themselves and saying "I am a Muslim, but I also want democracy".
Those forces within Islam prefer this not to happen.
Then, I have been to a mosque a couple of times since then, but not for Friday prayer, I did not go to watch those, for I do not feel well there, I feel like a false witness, sitting there listening to what is being said, for quite a few reasons. But I went a couple of times because I had an opportunity to speak, and I could criticize a lot of things. But that also became the last time.
The mosques I see today, and societies, they are all established or controlled by what I call Islamist proselytizing. And thus for the vast majority of people, some who may visit mosques only once a year, or those attending every week, they are not aware that it has been hijacked by a certain mindset, in a certain way. This way is what I mean to challenge.
For many would be able to relate to what I say, if they also understand where the problem is. In my view, having a relation to faith is something intended to provide us security or make us better human beings. As it was said by the philosophers of the Enlightenment:
Religion can be quite useful, for it can stem the egotism of man, and greed, and some of the dark sides we may have. In that case, society is better off with it, but if suddenly religion does not have that utility, society is worse off with it. What you are saying is entirely true; as soon as you enter the ranks of the faithful, you will encounter Islamism. No matter if you want to or not.
As soon as you enter that room, you will encounter Islamism, for there are no other options than their interpretation to understand access to religion and that has been powerful for 1200 years. They would love to have your [Islam-critical] statements now, for they can use those to keep
all these persons in a certain mindset, and lead them yet more wildly astray.
And for that reason it is vital to break with these persons holding the power, holding the monopoly, in order to free the individual from the chains, from this power. For unfortunately, if you become a faithful Muslim, you are to some degree infected with Islamist ideas. It was precisely my contact with the religious circles that made me slowly but surely start to become entirely different, also in my perception of society, which suddenly seemed to be rotten, evil, and all kinds of descriptions you can imagine.
The fact that you can express yourself freely, even making mistakes - I could make mistakes right now, but I have no fear that any of you would knock me down or hit me in the head.
You could be expecting that I walk in here saying: "Danish society is some, I don't know what, and your are some this and that"; I could do so, and you would be offended, You would go: "What on Earth is he saying?" But that would be all.
I would leave, meeting no police or anything, I would not be kicked out of my home. Isn't this genuine tolerance? Isn't this genuine respect, in that way?
I believe that it is, this is the value, precisely that you stick to this tolerance, which has meant so much for making me change, which today and in the future I will tell the world.
You know what, Ahmed, no one could possibly accuse me of being naïve or gullible concerning Islam. so I have carefully analyzed what you have been saying in recent weeks, also from the point of view of "Could this be Taqiyya?", which I am certain you know the meaning of, pretence in the service of religion or ideology. And I cannot make that add up. I was asked on my way in here, by several zealous journalists, if I believed you were sincere in what you said. And I had to say, I believe you are. For I cannot see what kind of interest you or any possible mastermind could have in your telling the kind of things that you have come forth with.
So I believe that you are on your way, on a journey which will lead you somewhere, that you may not know where ends, but I know one place that it does end [...].
When you are done with this journey, you will no longer be of use to Politiken, nor to the rabble of politically correct ideologists who defended the imam campaign back in 2005-6. You are no use to them; they will not defend you, they cannot use you for anything, and you will have to be an ordinary Dane just like the rest of us. This was more of a comment.
Lars, thank you for your words - but can you tell me if I can still become anonymous, normal Dane like you people?
The answer is "No!" Then I will never be quite as happy. My name is Søren Krarup, and I want to thank you for your lecture. I listened to with great joy, also because in you I find a quite beautiful view of the Denmark in which you have grown up. You have turned from what you did in 2005-6 to what you are now, and I clearly hear the gratitude for the Denmark you have come to know, magnanimous, forbearing and loyal.
You are using the expression "Social Contract". I do not like that expression. "Contrat Sociale" was the designation of Rousseau for the Social Contract. This was what led to the French Revolution and to all of the modern political evils. Thus I would like to say that what I hear from you is, what should we call it, a popular solidarity, entirely unrelated to a social contract.
And in that context I would like to ask you:
Are you not aware that the beautiful public solidarity, you have experienced in Denmark, and which is the background for your, well, conversion, is connected to this being a Christian country? That means a country making a conscious distinction between the divine and earthly realms.
Where one has not tried to create a holy society, but very consciously has said:
"Society can never be holy, it is a so-called earthly regime, it is secular." Therefore we can get along, therefore we belong together and constitute a people. I would like to ask you: Do you not have a feeling that, the things you describe so nicely, are ultimately the fruits of that Christianity, towards which you of course still are alien, but which is the foundation for the public solidarity in countries like Denmark.
Yes, it is the reformed Christian land, which in its way has created this solidarity.
"Lutheran", not "Reformed".
I cannot compete with you in the words of religion, but I can say, that as Islamists would condemn me, Catholics would do the same to you. So therefore there is something or other, in some process. Right now I distance myself greatly from these ideological or dogmatic expressions, which can be found in different religions.
But I can find inspiration in what has happened in Christian societies. with Luther, with Grundtvig, with those who came later in various places. When you relocated to Greenland, I and other former Moderate Muslims were speculating just why you chose to move to Greenland. That is so unusual that a whole bunch of theories came up, one of them being that the Organization of the Islamic Conference the Islamic Faith Society, had send you there in order to preach Islam, make 20,000 or 10,000 Greenlanders choose Islam as their religion, and through elections leave the Danish Realm and then create the first Islamist state in the West.
Is that pure speculation? Thanks. That is not speculation, that is reality. Not for myself, but the idea can be real. Someone contacted me in Greenland, one of those still living in Aalborg, who had been part of the [Islamist] circles in Danmarksgade.
Several months after I had relocated there. And he calls asking how I am doing, and so forth, and I say I'm very fine, at a distance, and then of course I shower him with criticism, you can ask them, I'll give some names, many of them know that, I have been very critical of what they stand for.
Then he says: "You can be happy, then, if you are so weary of the imams and everything," for I was criticizing the imams and so on, Then he says: "You can be happy to be the only imam up there in Greenland."
And I respond: "I have prayed to God that Greenlanders may be spared from any Muslims ever getting there." There has never been war in Greenland. A people living peacefully minding their own affairs. But I had decided that the corrupt imams, the corrupt persons around the Islamist groups, they were bad, but still that had nothing to do with the fact of being a Muslim. Only later was I to realize that there is such a monopoly of the understanding of being a Muslim that it borders to what the gentleman over there said a moment ago, that it ends up being a totalitarian ideology, for precisely the Islamists and their proselytizing are taking hold of everything, and every interpretation.
And that is so powerful and hard that you cannot manoeuvre through it. All those who tried got divorced from their wives, one was killed in the street in Egypt, one had to go into exile, and that sort of thing.
That was my limit at that time, and I hope that my response to him at least expressed something I was to repeat many times later, also after my return from Greenland, that I told them:
I really hope that the Greenlanders will never suffer from any of those environments ever getting there. For, as I said, that would not only melt the polar ice, it would set it on fire, as if it were petroleum. Yes, literally, that's how I put it.
My name is Rachel Johansen, I read what you wrote in Politiken [Danish daily] today, and the way I understand you, you believe that the Islamic groups in Denmark are Islamist. I would like to here if you believe that any Islamic groups exist that are not Islamists, and if any imams can be found who are not Islamists.
Finally, quite honestly: Can Islam be reformed, in your opinion? The groups I have seen in Denmark are all influenced by Islamism. For no matter whether it is moderate or very extreme, there is a monopoly of interpretation, and it is those who establish organisations. Imams are trained in a particular manner, just as I was at a time, I never finished the training but I was working as an imam.
You get trained in a mindset interpreting texts, books and things in certain ways, so my response is:
No, not to my knowledge, can you find any place to go in Denmark, that is entirely free of this indoctrination or mindset. You cannot be fully free in those environments. You ask: Can a homosexual Muslim go to a place of worship, saying: "I seek contact to God"? Can an unveiled woman say: "I want to go in there," then leave, someone perhaps who has her life in the fashion business or whatever, without being denigrated or looked down upon?
We have some things here that fail our expectations. Thus: No, that does not exist. At the moment there is nothing else to go to, that is not Islamist, in the form of an organization. You are welcome to tell me of or ask about places, it could be that some exist that I do not know, but they all belong to some Islamist organization, mindset or school.
And this ties people up. The ordinary Muslim, seeking contact to God, by attending Eid or what it is called, can go only to places where that kind of people are in charge. The new mosque to be constructed not far from here, is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, in disguise. Here they are, a tiny closed group, and they have a thousand coming for Friday prayer, then the media comes, and they speak on behalf of, somewhat similar to what I used to do, talking on behalf of these thousand, who know nothing at all, coming merely in order to be in contact with God, because they consider God good and compassionate, and that is all.
Many persons are being used, and this is why I will fight to break this. For I think this is enough, and it is about time that Denmark be liberated from these kinds of people, occupying the minds of others.
People should not need to look behind them if they want to contact Mr. Krarup or others to ask:
"Won't you tell me a bit more about one thing or another?"
Imagine that some Muslim would do that, then he needs to watch his back, also if you take a walk with your girlfriend, or fall in love and so on. In spite of having once been an imam, I also participated in smuggling away couples, a Muslim girl and a non-Muslim man, who wanted to be together.
Strangely, I took part in that. Some things I did were just fine. But again, why does it have to be this way, and why do I have to be "in the wrong",
for also I had to hide it, I had to hide what I was doing, or I would have had trouble. It is time for Denmark to be liberated from this, this is not the way the culture is built, this is not the freedom we all share and enjoy. And if only I can get this out to the majority of Muslims, there is this large, silent majority, who would support this attitude.
But that is to no avail if suddenly I get categorized with this Belgian woman, who started to attack religion in a very personal fashion. Then you lose all those persons that you could reach and tell:
Do you not enjoy your freedom? Do you not enjoy being part of society?
So how about looking at the human being, how about putting away those interpretations, how about looking critically at, reforming these groups, how about leaving them?
How about living your life in a different manner, how about also being able to be with some of the Christians attending a ceremony, saying "Merry Christmas" or whatever one says, to colleagues and others. Without fear. It does require some balancing, in order that the aces they always played, but not merely categorizing people, as if no one should listen to him, or to her, and then they can continue their proselytizing in isolation.
So I mean to strike at this isolation. They must not be permitted to continue like this. They must come into the light and discuss their opinions openly, and they must appeal to the young, that they can become critically aware themselves, that they are able to break with that tradition, and that they must not necessarily stick with this expression if they want to stay with what they believe to be true, but could have the strength to break with.
These are some of the thoughts I would like to contribute with, if I can. Katrine Winkel-Holm: And those would be the last words of the evening. We have a small present.
From the Free Press Society and a Muhammad cartoon from Kurt Westergaard. And Ahmed should have this T-shirt, for we hope that he will continue to talk loudly, rather than shut up.
If I may...
The text should be a bit lower, for it is the stomach that bulges. Then you should have something sweet, for you deserve that. This is sweet Danish chocolate.
We believe you deserve that for having taken a courageous journey, and thanks a lot for that.