At least people can change. Sometimes they change for the worse, but not always. Hang on to that thought when despair about humanity threatens.
A Danish Muslim leader who seven years ago travelled the Muslim world fuelling the uproar over newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad is back in the headlines in Denmark after doing an about-face on the issue.
Once a leading critic of the Danish cartoons, which sparked fiery protests in Muslim countries, Lebanese-born Ahmad Akkari now says the Jyllands-Posten newspaper had the right to print them.
(Stupid Guardian. Even in an article about the guy who led the campaign that triggered “fiery protests in Muslim countries,” the Graun is still using that stupid inaccurate stock-phrase “the Danish cartoons, which sparked fiery protests.” Imbecile Guardian. The cartoons did not spark the fiery protests, you buffoons. Pay attention to what you write.)
Akkari, now 35, was the spokesman for a group of imams who led the protests against the drawings in Denmark. They travelled to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria to elicit support, saying the Danish government wouldn’t listen to their concerns.
Their journeys helped turn the dispute into an international crisis. Dozens were killed in weeks of protests that included violent attacks against Danish missions in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
That group of imams and their spokesman got people killed. The cartoons didn’t do it. People deliberately stoking outrage about the cartoons did it. Sometimes outrage has to be stoked, but this was not one of those times, and the stoking got people killed.
“I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari said this week. “At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam.”
He said he’s still a practising Muslim but started doubting his fundamentalist beliefs after a 2007 trip to Lebanon, where he met Islamist leaders. “I was shocked. I realized what an oppressive mentality they have,” Akkari said.
That is a change for the better. A practicing Muslim is one thing and an Islamist is another.
Akkari now says printing the drawings was OK and that his reaction at the time was wrong. Last week he apologised in person to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, who has faced multiple death threats and murder attempts from extremists. Many Muslims consider Westergaard’s drawing, which depicts Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban, as the most offensive.
“I met a man who has converted from being an Islamist to become a humanist who understands the values of our society,” Westergaard said of Akkari. “To me, he is really sincere, convincing and strong in his views.”
People can change. For the better.