Ahmed Akkari Repents Violent Opposition to Danish Cartoons Lampooning Islam | The Daily Beast

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After a Danish newspaper published cartoons satirizing the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, Ahmed Akkari spearheaded protests that ultimately cost the lives of 200 people. Now he says he’s sorry.

Michael Moynihan on what changed Akkari’s mind.

 


The video surfaced on YouTube last month. Abu Khattab, a Danish member of the radical Salafi group Call to Islam, squats on a hillside in rebel-controlled Syria, cradling a Kalashnikov rifle, surrounded by three bearded and severe-looking men. He is waging jihad here, in this blood-drenched country choked by chemical weapons and on the precipice of Western military intervention. But Khattab has something else on his mind. In heavily accented Danish, he suborns the murder of “enemies of Islam” and murtadeen (apostates) living in Denmark, encouraging his co-religionists not to “forget the mockery” they have visited upon the Prophet Muhammad.

After Khattab’s short speech, the men drop to one knee, training their guns on a mud wall plastered with images of writers, artists, and politicians who have offended their religious sensibilities. They empty their clips. One jihadist pumps his fist in celebration. The camera cuts to the photo of the former radical Danish imam Ahmed Akkari, holding a copy of that infamous Danish cartoon—Muhammad with a lit bomb swaddled in his turban.

The picture of Akkari—once a hero of Islamism who not so long ago stalked the Middle East, inciting hatred against Denmark for not condemning a series of satirical drawings—was turned into confetti.

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In 2005 Akkari was a baby-faced religious leader, the pious but integrated immigrant called upon by the Danish media to explain Muslim discontent with the West. Danish historian Jytte Klausen found that between 1999 and October 2007, Jyllands-Posten, the country’s largest circulating daily, “published nearly 300 stories featuring Akkari.”

Many of those citations would come after September 2005, when Jyllands-Posten published 12 satirical drawings of the Prophet Muhammad—some respectful, some mocking Islam, some mocking the newspaper for soliciting them—that precipitated what is known in Denmark as “the cartoon crisis.” Flemming Rose, the editor who commissioned the illustrations, would later write that publication of the caricatures was “prompted by my perception of prevalent self-censorship among the Danish media,” a fear that the Islamic proscription on images of the prophet were encroaching on the country’s free-speech traditions. Most of the drawings have long since been forgotten. But it was a cartoon by artist Kurt Westergaard depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban that would provoke a violent global crisis.

“It was Westergaard’s image that change my life,” Rose wrote in his memoir of the “cartoon crisis,” published in 2010. It would dramatically alter Westergaard’s life, too. And Ahmed Akkari’s.

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Written By: Michael Moynihan
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  1. This is quite a sad story. It’s great that he has repented and I am bowled over by his courage but as one commentor said; “too late”. He has made enemies on both sides and knows this, he knows he has the blood of 200 people on him but his honesty needs to be applauded.

    it’s when you see a story like this it makes you wonder how many people there are who are involved with extremist actions are questioning their own beliefs and but for the lack of this super-human courage would be escaping a life of violence.

    We need to be able to forgive wrongdoers to encourage more people to reject violence. religious extremism is a mental illness, and it’s curable, as in htis case, with a little quiet reflection and a chance to read what others have to say

  2. Was no one in Denmark ever charged with any offense in this affair? I wonder why not. If the extreme right had been openly inciting people to violence and murder you can bet the authorities would have been all over it.

  3. *” … training their guns on a mud wall plastered with images of writers, artists, and politicians who have offended their religious sensibilities. They empty their clips.” *

    Chilling. We need a lot more Ahmed Akkaris.

  4. Very interesting -and very sad- article. Great last paragraph:

    “In 2007 I was on a trip in the Middle East, and I could see the contrast very clearly. I could see how societies were there and the gift I was given being raised in Denmark. Today I appreciate the idea of having a society like Denmark, where people can go to a religious place, the pub, sit by the beach [or] do whatever they like. That’s pretty rare out there in the world.”

  5. Repentance is all very well, but there are precious few Islamists like Akkari who see the error of their ways before their actions result in the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of people – it tends to be after the fact, if at all. Sorry Mr Akkari, but this is all too late as far as I’m concerned.

    • In reply to #7 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

      Incorrect.

      Repentance is all very well, but there are precious few Islamists like Akkari who see the error of their ways before their actions result in the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of people – it tends to be after the fact, if at all. Sorry Mr Akkari, but this is all too late as far as I’m concerned

      Fixed.

      Repentance is all very well, but there are precious few Islamists [-]who see the error of their ways before their actions result in the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of people. WITH MOST, like Akkari, it tends to be after the fact if at all. Sorry Mr Akkari, but this is all too late as far as I’m concerned.

      This guy DID NOT see the error of his ways BEFORE helping to cause the deaths of 200 people. There ARE precious few and this guy is not one of them.

      • In reply to #9 by alaskansee:

        In reply to #7 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

        Incorrect.

        Repentance is all very well, but there are precious few Islamists like Akkari who see the error of their ways before their actions result in the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of people – it tends to be after the fact, if at all….

        No, you misread my comment. I meant Islamists like Akkari (as a group) not Islamists who see the error of their ways before doing what they did. As I said there are precious few of those, and Akkari was not one of them. That was my point. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  6. I think I’ve come to the realization that it’s impossible to reason with blind faith, which is what religion instills in people.

    Individuals have to question their core beliefs and change of their own volition, and I realize that that is extremely difficult to do if you were indoctrinated at an early age. To such people the “outside world” probably seems a very scary place; it puts the wind up me sometimes!

    I had a school friend who in his teens managed to liberate himself from the Plymouth Brethren for a while, but the last time I saw him he was carrying a huge black book under his arm; I think he’d left it too late.

    We’ll have to wait and see how this chap fares. The P B are meek mild pussies compared to the Islamist big cats; they, ferociously hunt down their prey.

  7. From the OP:

    During the cartoon crisis, a popular Saudi imam told Al Jazeera that free speech was the enemy of religious faith: “…It begins with freedom of thought, it continues with freedom of speech, and it ends up with freedom of belief.”

    Yes, exactly. And the more the better.

  8. SaganTheCat says in Comment 1, “We need to be able to forgive wrongdoers….” OhmyZeus, get ahold of yourself, my friend! You’re talking like a Christian! (Seriously, though, very good comment.)

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