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Denmark wants to deport extremist imams

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The Mosque at Grimhøjvej, Aarhus, that is at the centre of the political storm. Photo: Henning Bagger/Scanpix
12:01 CET+01:00
Danish MPs from across the political spectrum on Thursday were discussing how to deal with imams with extreme views after a highly controversial Aarhus mosque was thrust back into the national spotlight this week.

Marcus Knuth, the integration spokesman for ruling party Venstre, proposed on Thursday that all foreign imams be banned from Denmark following hidden recordings of imams at the Grimhøj Mosque saying that adulterers should be stoned and that children should be beaten for not praying.

Knuth's call came after opposition leader Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democrats suggested that European countries set up a joint system to combat extremist imams that would entail deporting those known to have spoken against democracy or encouraged violence in other countries.

See also: New clip from Danish mosque: Hit kids who don't pray

But Knuth said more immediate action is required.

“Mette Frederiksen is talking about a joint European solution against radical imams, which sounds good, and would be fine in the long run. But I think we need a concrete Danish solution in the short term,” Knuth told news agency Ritzau.

“I believe we should go further [than the proposed European cooperation], and see whether we can deport all foreign imams that come to Denmark,” Knuth continued. “I’m not saying it’s possible under current laws, but we should look into it.”

“If you have to find out who is radical and who isn’t, you need an as-yet non-existent European registry, and I think it will take too long. We need some initiatives that will work here and now.”

Church minister: "Completely unacceptable"
Church Minister Bertel Haarder said on Wednesday that one step the government could take would be to strip imams who espouse of their legal authority to officiate weddings. 

"It is completely unacceptable when religious leaders encourage that type of thing," he said in a press release about the mosque's support for stoning adulterers. 

"It is not only a human rights violation it also goes directly against all ambitions to create better integration," he added. 

Despite the calls for action, controversy around the Grimhøj Mosque is not new. This week’s TV2 documentary has re-ignited a national debate about the Aarhus mosque, which in September 2014 made international headlines after declaring its support for the terrorist group Isis. In January 2015, the mosques’s chairman, Oussama El-Saadi, doubled down on the comments in a DR documentary, saying “we want the Islamic State to come out on top. We want an Islamic state in the world.”

Clips from the new TV2 programme show a visiting Copenhagen imam telling a female-only audience that children aged ten and older who refuse to pray should be beaten in an "educational" way and, in a previous clip, imam Abu Bilal Ismail is seen advocating the stoning and whipping of adulterers.

Ismail has previously been caught on video calling on God to "destroy the Zionist Jews".

"A national fight for freedom"
Frederiksen told Berlingske on Thursday that Danish Muslims need to undergo a "national fight for freedom" to get out from under the “extreme pressure" within parts of the Muslim community.

"We have a very large group of Muslims who are well-integrated and embrace Danish society. But they are under extreme pressure from the radical Muslim environment, which, unfortunately, is growing, and is much more than just Grimhøj Mosque," the opposition leader said. 

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But Thomas Hoffmann, a professor of Quranic Studies at the University of Copenhagen, told Politiken that many Muslims in the public debate in Denmark have said that they do not feel represented by the leaders of the Grimhøj Mosque or their form of Islam.

“The promotion of this kind of punishment [stoning adulterers and hitting children, ed.] by the Grimhøj Mosque is highly unlikely to be representative of what the majority of Muslims in Denmark or the rest of the world wish for or actually practice,” said Hoffmann.

The Islamic Society in Denmark (Islamisk Trossamfund) recently released a statement saying it "does not want to see anyone stoned neither now nor in any other hypothetical situation".

The Grimhøj Mosque itself responded to a transcript of the recordings by stating that the video only gives a small insight into the teachings of the mosque and does not reflect the whole picture.

“We cannot believe everything that comes from you. The recording only shows a few seconds rather than hours. Therefore, it is not certain that you did not just collect things to cheat people,” the mosque's chairman, Oussama El-Saadi, told TV2.

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