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We should fear the radicals, not the Muslims

INTERVIEW - As a society we need to prevent Muslim radicalisation. This is according to Danish politician Naser Khader, who himself is a moderate Muslim. Still, those fearing a growing influence of Islam in Denmark are mistaken

Sentiments against Islam have surged in Europe after the latest deadly attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. But Denmark will continue to be a centrist, moderate society, according to the prominent Muslim politician Naser Khader.

The University Post spoke to him, a University of Copenhagen (UCPH) alumnus, arguably one of Denmark’s most prominent Muslims, before, and after, the Copenhagen attacks. The Syrian-born Copenhagener was a member of the Danish Parliament for nearly ten years and is an outspoken proponent of democratic Islam.

Will Islamophobic groups gain traction in Denmark? the University Post asked Khader.

Denmark needs preventive anti-radicalisation action, fast

They don’t stand a chance, he says:

“‘Danish people are not for extremism, and the aftermath of the Copenhagen attacks proved it once again”, he insists. He adds that Denmark is a centrist society, one that likes to keep ‘in the middle of the road’.

“That said, we need to do better in Denmark in terms of avoiding potential platforms for radicalisation. The Copenhagen attack was a terrible result of radicalisation, and it proved with all clarity that we need to start focusing more on the preventive work – we simply cannot wait for action until another attack hits Denmark.”

“Unfortunately, it will only be a matter of time before the next attack hits unless the needed, preventive, anti-radicalisation action is not implemented as fast as possible”, he says.

Islam in need of a ‘revolution’

”I am Muslim but I’m very critical towards a lot of elements of Islam”, Khader says, ”we have to look to the Qur’an with a critical eye”.

”We (Muslims) need a revolution” and ”we need to get rid of the violence in the Qur’an”. As ”the mainstream Muslims, the moderate Muslims, we have to push on and press and lobby” for reforming Islam, he adds.

“Unfortunately, there are way too few mainstream, moderate Muslims that are present in this debate. Additionally, there are way too many people stating that they ‘condemn everything about the attack in Copenhagen, but…’ . We need to get rid of this ‘but’, and simply fight for the removal of radicalization and the actions from these [people, ed.]. No buts.”

Contrary to what Islam-haters claim, Khader says, ”you can be Muslim without accepting Sharia law”.

Those claiming that you cannot reform Islam, they ”use the arguments from the Islamists” and not from the majority of Muslims, he says.

”Islamists hate people like me much more than they hate Jews and Christians because in their view I’m a traitor”, Khader concludes. ”That’s why I speak up and say that other people like me should join me in this battle against the Islamists”.

No need to fear: Denmark not losing its culture

Being moderate but morally steadfast is helping Denmark to integrate and democratise immigrant Muslims, Khader says. Leading by example with values of democracy and free speech, ”the Danish society has a larger influence and effect on the individual Muslim than the individual Muslim has on the Danish society.

“So if anybody has a reason to be afraid to lose their culture and religion, it’s the Muslims, and not the Danish society”, Khader argues.

For those insisting that Denmark is becoming more and more islamised, Khader has a challenge, which he sometimes puts to his audiences during public lectures:

”Tell me three ways in which Muslims have influenced the Danish society. And don’t tell me Houmous, Falafel, Shawarma”.

The thought experiment hardly ever prompts any reply.

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