A collaboration between the Islamic Society in Denmark and the City of Copenhagen may be dropped over comments made by representatives and associates of the Muslim group, politicians said on Tuesday.
The city and the faith group work together on integration and anti-radicalization projects but that partnership will end if the society doesn’t account for controversial opinions expressed by some of its members and guests.
Copenhagen City Council members pointed to the society’s invitation to British imam Haitham al-Haddad earlier this year. According to city officials, al-Haddad “accepts violence against women and believes that Jews are the descendants of pigs and apes”.
The Islamic Society, however, swiftly condemned that contention in a statement on Tuesday and said that the city’s statements about al-Haddad were based on false claims made by Danish newspaper Berlingske.
“This is an unheard of and ungrounded demonization. That is the reason that Berlingske made an agreement with Haitham al-Haddad, paid him compensation and retracted an article,” the society’s spokesman, Imran Shah, said.
Berlingske’s editor-in-chief, Tom Jensen, confirmed that the newspaper did indeed reach an agreement with al-Haddad but said it was only about the paper’s claim that the imam had previously praised Osama bin Ladan.
“There weren’t grounds for such a claim. The rest of the article’s content is not challenged,” Jensen told his own paper.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide has previously confirmed that al-Haddad said that Jews “are the enemies of God and the descendants of apes and pigs” in a 2001 sermon and a YouTube video appears to show al-Haddad justifying domestic violence as a private issue.
City officials also pointed to remarks made by Kamran Shah, a frequent presence at the society’s mosque in Copenhagen’s Nordvest district.
In a video posted to YouTube, Shah tells listeners that they face punishment from God for listening to music and watching the Danish version of X-Factor, the popular amateur singing programme.
“If you see it X-Factor, and watch it for just two to three minutes, it is haram [an Arabic term for acts forbidden in Islam, ed.] And what does it mean when we say haram ? It means God will punish you,” Kamran Shah says in the video.
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In addition to the city considering ending its relationship with the Islamic Society, Conservative MP Naser Khader has said that the group should lose its official state approval as a faith society.
“I believe that if the approved faith societies do things that collide with democracy and integration, it should have some consequences. I will investigate the possibility that the consequence could be that we pull their approval,” he told Politiko.
The Islamic Society said it is considering legal action against city officials for “defamatory claims”.
“First of all, Copenhagen City Council has the full right to decide who they would like to work with and who they’d like to exclude. But it should always be based upon correct grounds,” Imran Shah said.