Finally he is there – on the podium of The Free Press Society. It is half past seven PM, Thursday, August 22, 2013, as the former Islamicist imam and deadly enemy of the Free Press Society, Ahmed Akkari, faces his most fierce critics.
A tiny man with more than a hundred deaths and the burning of two Danish embassies on his conscience.
– Thank you for inviting me. I don’t know if I deserve all this, but perhaps my journey through life may be of use to you, says Ahmed Akkari as he timidly surveys the packed hall in the heart of Copenhagen.
Since ex-Islamist Ahmed Akkari came out of the closet three weeks ago, he has been the man of the hour. On television shows, in newspaper articles and on radio, he has tried to explain what has happened to him. He went from being a hardened and fierce Islamicist to a kindly and thoughtful person, filled with love and gratitude for Denmark.
The metamorphosis is difficult to explain and hard to believe. Is his conversion sincere or he is he applying taqqiya – the right of Muslims to lie and deceive in the service of Islam?
In 1985, when Akkari was six, his parents fled to Denmark from war-torn Lebanon. They chose Denmark because it was a safe country without too many immigrants – thinking that they would find a peaceful life here.
Ahmed Akkari attended public school as the only immigrant in his class. He had every chance in the world to adapt and become a normal Dane. But in his teens he was drawn to religious circles and before realizing what was happening, he had become poisoned by extremism.
– The truth is that there is not a single mosque or Muslim organization in Denmark that is not run by Islamists. As soon as you enter the house of the believers, you are met with Islamism whether you want it or not. As soon as you become a devoted Muslim, you are infected by extremism, says Ahmed Akkari.
He embarked on an education as an imam and suddenly he detested democracy and free speech. Allah and life after death became his only concerns. When the daily Jyllands-Posten published the famous Muhammed cartoons in September 2005, he was instrumental in condemning Denmark. Together with other imams he traveled to The Middle East in order to stir up a glowing hatred against the small northern country that had had the audacity to offend the prophet. The result: riots leading to the death of more than a hundred people, two Danish embassies burnt to the ground and a boycott of Danish products.
Vengefully, Akkari and his cohorts tried to force then Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to apologize for Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons. But the Prime Minister stood firm and explained that Denmark enjoys freedom of the press and that he neither could nor would apologize. That made no impression on Denmark’s boisterous cultural elite that just could not understand why one had to offend the country’s and the world’s Muslims this way.
Ahmed Akkari ©Roger Sahlström
But now Ahmed Akkari understands. He has undergone a metamorphosis. How did that happen? And can we trust him?
It all started when Akkari got help to return to Denmark from Lebanon in 2006. He had settled there for a while but suddenly found himself in the midst of a war after Hezbollah had started firing rockets into Israel and was met with air attacks and ground operations. Denmark evacuated several thousand citizens – among them Ahmed Akkari.
–Despite the fact that I had done so much damage to Denmark, the country let me in again. Nobody arrested me at the airport. I was not interrogated and nobody questioned my right to return.
His gratitude is palpable. He would not have been surprised if he had been met with another reaction. Has he deserved this treatment?
Ahmed Akkari sought work as a teacher in Greenland – a constituent part of the Danish realm – and there he embarked on the process that lead to his conversion.
During his time with the imams, he encountered more falsehood than he has ever experienced. They smile at you but work against you, he explains. When he went to Greenland, he still believed in the Islamic ideology. The fault, as he saw it, lay with people who did not interpret it in the right way.
– It starts with people – the thoughts come later, he says.
In the stillness of the polar nights, the thoughts came to Akkari. He started reading the world’s most important books.
– I read all the philosophers of the Enlightenment. I read world history and I realized that people are what they read. There was so much I didn’t know. I read about the freedom fighters who throughout history have tried to prevent religion from curtailing free thought and I realized that Denmark was in fact the oasis my parents had imagined.
Ahmed Akkari. © Roger Sahlström
A couple of years ago, it finally dawned on Akkari. He had made his choice but had no intention of going public. A journalist made him change his mind and three weeks ago, the daily B.T. published the story: Denmark’s enemy number one asks for forgiveness.
He has had coffee with the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew the most famous of the Muhammed cartoons and who was subsequently the victim of an assassination attempt for having ”offended the prophet”.
– I was overwhelmed by the way Westergaard accepted me and forgave me. He showed me precisely what is so fantastic about Denmark.
A member of the audience asked Akkari if he had been sent to Greenland to convert the Greenlanders and establish the first Muslim state in the Western world.
– No. I understand the question but the truth is that I prayed to God never to send any Muslims to Greenland. I was so tired of corrupt imams spreading their totalitarian ideology that I was convinced they would not only melt the ice cap if they had come there, but set it on fire.
The priest Søren Krarup asked Ahmed Akkari if he understood that Christianity is the reason why Denmark is such a peaceful oasis. Akkari responded that he understood Krarup’s thinking but gave no clear answer. It is obvious that he hopes for a dialogue with Muslims who are still in the grip of the extremists and that he doesn’t want to burn all his bridges.
How does he think that Danes and Swedes should react to the Islamization of our countries?
– Go on being as tolerant and wonderful as you are, but don’t be so naive! Stick to your traditions and don’t give preferential treatment to Muslims. They should not have the right to behave badly in countries that have let them in. I once thought that Denmark was a country of pig-lovers that had to be forced to bend to Islam. Now I don’t understand why I thought that way. You have the right to keep your peaceful countries with your culture and traditions.
The evening is over and Ahmed Akkari happily accepts the Free Press Society’s mug with the famous drawing of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban. He looks tired but pleased. As the audience leave the hall, most of them seem convinced that Akkari has been sincere.
The only losers are the members of the Danish cultural elite who stood on his side but are now standing with their pants down.