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In a recent survey conducted by the Danish Ministry of Foreigners and Integration (Udlændinge- og Integrationsministeriet), 48% of descendants of non-Western immigrants in Denmark said that they think it should be forbidden to criticize religion, according to Kristeligt Dagblad. Forty-two percent of immigrants who had lived in Denmark for three years agreed with the statement, while only 20% of ethnic Danes agreed with it.
The results of the survey came around the same time that a Danish think-tank, UNITOS -- where Danish politician Naser Khader is a board member -- published a report by former Islamist imam Ahmed Akkari, "The loyalty conflict in the West – why Muslims are hard to integrate."
A few months after Jyllands-Posten's publication of the Mohammed cartoons in 2005, Ahmed Akkari and a group of other Danish imams traveled to the Middle East to stir up local protests, which escalated and resulted in the Mohammed cartoon crisis. Akkari subsequently left the Islamist environment that he had been a part of and in 2014 published a book in Danish about Islamism, My Goodbye to Islamism.
In the new report, Akkari (quoting Aarhus University professor of political science Mehdi Mozzafari) defines Islamism as the "religiously based ideology, which contains a totalitarian interpretation of Islam that seeks to conquer the world." Akkari suggests that traditionalist interpretations of Islam wield a monopoly of power over Muslims. This monopoly prevents them from integrating into Western societies, because it prevents them from thinking and acting freely concerning Islam. Akkari writes:
"Here my point is that Islam has never fully assimilated into any society and that Muslims have never fully adapted into non-Muslim cultures. With an increasing number of Muslims in the West, this will end in conflict.
"Most conflicts result from Islamism's control of the definition of 'what it means to be Muslim'... Many Muslims do not really use the mosques in their daily lives and do not listen... to the imam's advice and guidance. These are Muslims of culture and of background. Although they are many, they are unable to influence understanding or interpretation because cultural Muslims are not legitimate...
"Islamism works against cohesion with the West -- also when it preaches understanding and democracy -- and it produces a counter-pressure that shows itself in terrorism, gangs and politicized groups. It shows itself in cynical speculation of influencing political power, not because it accepts democratic life, but because it thereby attempts to become strong enough to overcome it..."The problem with the Muslim minority in the West... is that it dare not be independent, when it comes to religious issues... because the strong religious and cultural elite governs... and posits itself as self-elected representatives of Muslims".
The other challenge, writes Akkari, is that:
"As Islamists influence Western Muslim circles, Western political parties engage with them to win more votes, and therefore make unfortunate alliances with forces that really... reject the established system...The dilemma is that by seeking Islamist votes they allow those who wish... Denmark to become Islamized to be strengthened... the same sort of dilemma as if one sought the votes of a neo-Nazi, fascist or Stalinist group".
Akkari blames Islamism for the failure of Muslims to integrate into Western societies.
"Islamism works against integration of Muslims with its active proselytizing and because Islamism with its palette of more or less fanatical and extremist groups creates a tumor in public society".
Akkari stresses that Islamism should not be confused with Islam or Muslims in general. He names Islamist mosques in Denmark as a significant problem that works against integration.
"Many mosques were formed to be a spiritual and religious space for believers, and not as places where violence, hatred and political agendas should dominate. Nevertheless, the leading mosques in Denmark are characterized exactly by a pseudo-Islamic influence under the control of small strong elites of Islamic leaders. In that world, influence, not numbers, counts, and therefore it is not possible to say that Islamism is weak, just because it only exists in one quarter of all mosques, which I estimate".
Akkari writes that the Islamic cultural and religious elite in Denmark, "... Uses its influence over Muslims to negotiate with typically the left-wing... "
"They use the support of the left to strengthen the grip on Muslims' choices. They do so by standing as their representatives (often without having asked them for legitimacy of the representation)... The left supports the positions and representatives of the [Muslim, ed.] elite by helping them to stand for election or to have dialogue and cooperation with them during and after the elections. The left... shows good will for dialogue with the [Muslim, ed.] power elite. They increase their political votes with this relationship and use it actively..."
Akkari writes that up to one quarter of all Muslims in Denmark listen to the agendas of the Islamists in Denmark to some extent and that the latest election proved this, as the number of votes for the far-left Enhedslisten and the center-left Det Radikale Venstre went up significantly in areas with a concentration of Muslims.
According to a report in Jyllands Posten, in the last elections, which took place on June 5, Muslim voters were organized in certain urban areas listed by the government as ghettos. In Gellerup, in western Aarhus, an electoral group was set up, which, in co-operation with a mosque and various other associations, recommended that people vote for the far-left Enhedslisten and the center-left Det Radikale Venstre. As a result, in Gellerup, Det Radikale Venstre went from receiving 5.1% of the vote in 2015, to 34.2% in 2019. The same trend could be seen in other ghetto-areas, such as Vollsmose, Tingbjerg and in Nørrebro, where Enhedslisten was also popular. Both parties have a pro-immigration stance. Det Radikale Venstre, for instance, wants to make it easier for refugees to gain permanent residence in Denmark. The parties gained 8.6% and 6.9% of the votes respectively, corresponding to 16 and 13 seats in parliament.
Akkari writes that extremists, "Thrive on laxity and lack of consistency" and that "establishing and supporting official representatives of the Sharia... is a form of legitimization of an alternative justice system..."
"... the identification of special laws for Muslims, such as halal meat at all institutions, special rules for swimming and socializing with other people, special exceptions from current law on divorce, women's rights... etc... will weaken the state's sovereign enforcement of the law. There must be no appeasement when it comes to these cases, because it is about more than respect for a minority. [These concessions] are perceived as a victory for the messages of Islamism, and it will bring more Muslims into a serious dilemma between the norms of Danish society and the norms of the minority community. That dilemma does not serve anyone well – least of all the Muslims themselves. There needs to be clarity... for everyone to function on roughly the same terms in accordance with the Constitution and the prevailing cultural norms".
"...The biggest problem in Western societies today appears to be that they do not have a common understanding of how to deal with these issues. It is largely left to political trends and coalitions that then change direction after every other election... the demographic changes in the West are being taken too lightly as a result of especially the growth of Muslim cultures and the resistance of Muslim cultures to dissolution in the indigenous cultures. Even the United States, which is the forerunner of the melting pot theory, has seen a rise in visible Muslim cultures and where jihadists became visible after the famous and tragic September 11, 2001".
Akkari's warning holds true not only for Denmark, but for most Western European countries. Is anyone listening?
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.