Islamist who protesteted against Danish Mohammed cartoons has change of heart
CAN an Islamist change?
Michael Moynihan interviews Ahmed Akkari, who helped to whip up the frenzy riots during the Danish cartoon controversy. Akkari then changed his mind. He moved to Greenland – well away form his former friends:
There is no simple explanation for why he flipped, but Akkari’s time in Greenland, having emerged from the swamps of Islamism, was crucial. “In Greenland, I had space and time—and I had the public library. I started reading.” It was there, shrouded in Arctic anonymity, that he confronted his own prejudices, reading books of philosophy, history, and sociology, ultimately consuming—but, he admits, not always comprehending—Danish existentialist philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard.
“In 2011 for the first time I read an Islam critic.” It was the work of Nasr Hamed Abu Zayd, an Egyptian scholar exiled from his homeland and forced by an Egyptian court to annul his marriage for the “crime” of apostasy. His writings transformed Akkari. “He made me move further with my break from Islamism,” a system that he now views as “a way of controlling people. You use God, you use metaphysics, and that’s very strong.”…During the cartoon crisis, a popular Saudi imam told Al Jazeera that free speech was the enemy of religious faith: “The problem is that [the Danes] want to open up … everything for debate. That’s it. It begins with freedom of thought, it continues with freedom of speech, and it ends up with freedom of belief.”
It now seemed a prescient observation, because it was liberalism, the consumption of dissenting ideas—the very thing he had once dedicated his life to shutting down—that changed Ahmed Akkari. Jacob Mchangama argues that, for Akkari, the Danish tradition of free speech acted as a disinfectant. “The Akkari affairs shows the fallacy of the argument that we need to ‘compromise’ and be ‘pragmatic’ when it comes to free speech and religious sensitivities.”
Photo: Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees burn a Danish flag during a protest rally in Gaza City, Monday, Feb. 18, 2008. Dozens of militants of the Popular Resistance Committees protested Monday against Danish newspapers reprinting a cartoon lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)