The Words of Öz | When we radicalise modern Muslims

September 11. We all remember the date and what we were doing that day when the 110-story Twin Towers crumbled to the ground and became dust. Eleven years have since passed, but did we ever rise from that dust?

A certain amount of fear was created that day, and that fear had a visual character: that of a Muslim male with an Islamic mindset. To this day, we still link the Islamic mindset with an anti-democratic mindset, and sometimes even with terroristic behaviour. It’s important to differentiate the modern Muslims from the radicals, and it is especially important to support the modern Muslims who try to fight the radicals.

That’s why the Danish ethnic youth council Ny-Dansk Ungdomsråd choose to hold a conference on September 11 to look at how best to  tackle political and religious radicalism. Among the speakers was the world famous scholar and professor Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri. The minister of social affairs, Karen Hækkerup, should have also been among the speakers, but she cancelled less then a week before the conference. Her reason was that ul-Qadri was attending the conference, and she claimed not to have noticed it before.

A few days before the conference, Hækkerup wrote on Facebook that she will refuse to be a speaker next to ul-Qadri because she “stands for democracy and he stands for Sharia”. She based her decision on a story about ul-Qadri that painted him as the architect of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which include calls for capital punishment.

Let’s look at some facts about Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri. In 2011, he, with his organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran, convened the ‘Peace for Humanity Conference’ at London’s Wembly Arena, which was attended by over 12,000 participants. He received supportive messages from people like Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, and David Cameron, the British prime minister. He has also released a 600-page fatwa (Islamic ruling) against terrorism. The writing details why it is not Islamic to commit violent acts, complete with Islamic sources that back up that assertion.

This was the main reason he was invited to Ny-Dansk Ungdomsråd’s radicalism conference in the first place. In general, he works for peace and tolerance among different religions and cultures.

Hækkerup announced her decision about not attending the conference before ul-Qadri had a chance to defend himself against the blasphemy story. He was later interviewed on TV2 News and made it clear that he had nothing to do with the procedural part of the law, and that he actually tried to stop its implementation. This invalidated Hækkerup’s reason for not showing up, but she refused to comment further.
We had a world-renowned anti-terror scholar come all the way to Denmark to speak to our youth about why terror is an un-Islamic action, and about how to fight those thoughts that lead to terror.

This should have been a dream scenario for the Danish minister: a Muslim leader who calls on Muslims to participate in democracy and society. He has even said: “If you don’t respect the Danish constitution, then why are you here?”

But still ul-Qadri was called a radical Islamist by several media outlets.

Calling a pro-democratic scholar a radical Muslim, and putting him in the same box as anti-democratic voices, leaves the question: just who qualifies as a modern, moderate Muslim? Is it first when you abandon your Islamic value, and act anti-Islamic in public?

If you are a Muslim in the public sphere, and don’t hide your Islamic beliefs or appearance, politicians and the news media will always ask you religious questions looking for political answers. That makes it hard to build bridges. Instead of asking questions with expectations and demands, we should ask questions with the intention of understanding each other.

While he was here, journalists spent more time asking ul-Qadri questions about his past than questioning him about his international campaign to tackle radicalism.

When will they start asking the right questions instead of expecting the wrong answers? They made him look like a part of the problem, when he in fact a part of the solution.

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