Calls for unity in wake of Muslim cemetery attack

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Calls for unity in wake of Muslim cemetery attack
The Danish Islamic Burial Organization said the incident should "not be used by politicians and others to increase tensions". Photo: Niels Ahlmann Olesen/Scanpix

Politicians and community leaders have reacted to the desecration of a Muslim cemetery by urging unity and self-control.


The Danish Islamic Burial Fund, which operates the Muslim cemetery in the Copenhagen suburb of Brøndby that was desecrated over the weekend, has called for restraint in the wake of the destruction.

“We encourage cooler heads to prevail and hope this incident will not be used by politicians and others to increase tensions,” Ahmet Deniz, head of the organization, told DR.

Some 50 graves were destroyed, with tombstones broken and strewn over the burial grounds. According to police, graves were also urinated on. 

Among those buried at the Brøndby cemetery is Omar El-Hussein, the 22-year-old behind two fatal February shootings in Copenhagen. Deniz told Jyllands-Posten in the days after those shootings that the group considered denying El-Hussein's family's request to have him buried there. 

"My concern is over extremist attitudes and actions on both sides. Both from his friends and from young Danish people who perhaps could also riot later," Deniz said.
Police initially said that they viewed the weekend action as a likely "prank", but were quick to reclassify the incident as “political-religious vandalism” following a storm of outrage on social media.

“A policeman talked about this as 'a prank'. I am very angry about the use of that word,” Social Liberal (Radikale) MP Zenia Stampe wrote as a comment to her Facebook post about the attack, which has already received over 40,000 likes since Saturday.

In the wake of the desecration, several politicians have called for a united front against extremists.  

“Unfortunately there is a growing animosity between certain communities. I want to emphasize that regardless of whether it is a Jew, Muslim, Christians or atheist being antagonized for their views, it is vital that we condemn such actions,” Socialist People’s Party MP Özlem Cekic told Jyllands Posten.

The sentiment was shared by Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) MP Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, who released a statement saying “We cannot allow [extremists and religious fanatics] to set the agenda. We must insist on living peacefully together in diversity.”

Friends and family of those buried at the cemetery began work to restore order over the weekend, and a memorial attended by 300-400 people was held at the site on Sunday.

“The ones who did this are not pranksters, but psychopaths – it’s them who ought to be thrown out of the country”, memorial attendee Nicki Madsen told Ekstra Bladet.

Over the weekend, Hans Christian Andersen’s grave was desecrated with graffiti saying “Fuck Denmark”, and a church in the Copenhagen suburb of Ishøj was also vandalized. Police have not found any evidence to connect the Ishøj church vandalism to the Brøndby incident and have concluded that the Andersen tombstone was defaced as early as Wednesday. 

Clean-up started almost immediately after some 50 graves were destroyed. Photo: Niels Ahlmann Olesen/Scanpix



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