In September of 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of “blasphemous” cartoons (including the one below) featuring the Islamic prophet Muhammad:
You remember what happened (months) after that. Mass chaos. Violent demonstrations. Death threats against the artists. Death, period.
Ahmed Akkari, 28 at the time, was one of the leaders of that reactionary movement. A New York Times article from 2006 talked about his role in the protests:
Ahmed Akkari, 28, a Lebanese-born Dane, acts as spokesman for the European Committee for Honoring the Prophet, an umbrella group of 27 Danish Muslim organizations to press the Danish government into action over the cartoons.
“Then the case moved to a new stage,” Mr. Akkari recalled. “We decided then that to be heard, it must come from influential people in the Muslim world.”
Not long after his group went to the Muslim leaders, the riots began.
Akkari is 35 now and, in a really amazing twist, he regrets his role in creating this shitstorm:
“I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari told The Associated Press 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 practicing 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.
In fact, last week, Akkari apologized in person to Kurt Westergaard, who drew the cartoon above.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Akkari’s old group hasn’t changed one bit, saying they still find all images of Muhammad offensive and disrespectful.
I’m glad Akkari had a change of heart, but he could do better than just apologizing to the secular press. He, more than anyone else, needs to plant seeds in the minds of other fundamentalist Muslims who see the world as he once did. He needs to make fighting for freedom of speech a lifetime cause since his actions help take away the lives of so many.
Remember: Even beyond those who were directly killed in the rioting, Molly Norris, who began Everybody Draw Muhammad Day in 2010, had to reportedly change her name and go into hiding after she was put on a Muslim radical’s hitlist. Her life still isn’t back to normal.
Akkari played an important role in ruining all these lives. He can’t wipe his hands clean of all this just yet; his work is now just beginning.
(Thanks to Richard for the link)