Opinion | Just what is Ahmed Akkari trying to say?

Better late than never must have been the thought that went through the mind of Ahmed Akkari when the former imam and spokesperson for the group that was responsible for catalysing Muslim outrage over the 2005 Mohammed caricatures publicly stated his new opinion of the situation last month.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a journalist who wanted to know whether I’d appear on the radio with Akkari to discuss his change of heart. Our previous such debate took place seven years ago. Then we held opposing viewpoints and shortly after the situation began to unwind in earnest. 

I declined the offer, explaining that I had trouble seeing the reason for the timing, the rationale or the purpose of Akkari’s media offensive. My opinion is that it was a PR stunt of the same calibre as the media appearances he made in January and February of 2006, when he took to the airwaves to explain why he and his cohorts had made their infamous 2005 trip to the Middle East to draw attention to the caricatures. 

Since I turned down the offer, Akkari has repeatedly been in the media, but I’m still unclear about what his point is. Akkari has spent the seven years since 2006 philosophising over topics like the meaning of life, the nature of good and evil and no doubt about the purpose of human existence itself!

It’s laudable that Akkari follows in the footsteps of others involved in the events of 2006 and reflects over the catastrophic repercussions of what he said and did back then. Even more praiseworthy is that he came to the surprising conclusion that he regrets playing a role in what happened seven years ago. 

But, to be honest, Akkari’s statements are really just a part of the struggle within the Muslim community, particularly among those associated with the Islamic Faith Society (which Akkari was a member of) that has been going on since the 2007 death of its leader, Imam Abu Laban. 

Four years ago, Akkari publicly criticised certain members of the Muslim community and in August 2010, he was ready to single-handedly take on former Jyllands-Posten culture editor Flemming Rose, who at the time was preparing to publish a book about the caricatures and the controversy surrounding them. 

It’s hard for me to see how Akkari has come to a new realisation, or how he could have become a new person three years after he was ready to mount a new defence against what he felt was Rose’s continued crusade against all aspects of Muslim life in Denmark. 

Just as difficult for me to understand is how Akkari can claim to “understand” former right-wing leader Pia Kjærsgaard. 

As far as I see it, Akkari’s journey from one extreme to another shows how untrustworthy he is, and it certainly is not the first step towards a rejection of everything he stood for in 2006 and continued to do so all the way up to August 2010. 

Despite all that, I’m pleased that Akkari has finally arrived at the conclusion I tried to lead him and others to back in 2006: we are all first and foremost Danes. And that being so, we have the right to believe in whatever faith we choose – or even to choose not to believe in anything at all. 

My question to Ahmed Akkari then, here seven years after our embassies were torched, people were killed and I and others were demonised and have since paid the price for what you did, is just what is it you are trying to tell everyone?

The author is the president of the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Society and frequently comments about Islam.