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Tags: Denmark | Jews | protection | tumult

Danish Jews, Muslims Gird for More Tumult in Plea for Protection

Wednesday, 18 February 2015 06:12 PM

Denmark’s Jews and Muslims are bracing themselves for a new round of tumult in the wake of shootings by a terrorist gunman that killed two people.

A novel, "The Best Book," satirizing religions including Islam, will be released Feb. 27. The book was written by Kaare Bluitgen, who set in motion the 2005 publication of cartoons of Muhammad that sparked worldwide protests and death threats.

Jewish leaders are negotiating with the Justice Ministry, security forces, and police over plans to station armed guards outside schools, homes and shops. Muslim leaders are advising their communities to avoid being alone in public and to notify police if they run into trouble.

"To be able to continue to live a Jewish life, sadly, means that it looks like we need enhanced security," said Jeppe Juhl, spokesman for the Jewish Community in Denmark. "There is a problem with radicalized Muslim society. It is not a problem just for Jews. We are just more easily targeted."

Police confirmed late Tuesday the identity of the man who shot into a free-speech debate and a synagogue over the weekend: Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, 22, a Danish-born Muslim. The father of the shooter, who was killed by police Sunday, said in a TV2 interview he was shocked because his son hadn’t been particularly religious. El-Hussein is thought to have adopted extremist views while in prison for stabbing a man, an offense for which he received a two-year sentence, local media have reported, citing police documents.

Copenhagen Rally

In a Feb. 16 rally attended by more than 30,000, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged Danes not to let the attacks, which left a 37-year-old Jewish security guard and a 55-year-old filmmaker dead, divide the country. The plea was echoed by both the Jewish and Muslim communities.

"We value the freedoms that we’ve been given here. We come from societies with dictators," said Imran Shah, spokesman for the Islamic Society in Denmark.

Tolerance in Denmark may be tested again as soon as next week with the distribution of Bluitgen’s self-published book.

The novel includes passages on the prophet Muhammad’s sex life. A decade ago, the Danish author’s complaint that he couldn’t find an illustrator for a children’s book about the prophet spurred the newspaper Jyllands-Posten to solicit drawings of Muhammad in 2005. Demonstrators in Muslim countries torched Danish embassies in protest while the illustrators and newspaper were threatened.

Bluitgen, who lives in the same neighborhood that was home to El-Hussein, said in an interview the terrorist attacks won’t slow the book’s publication and defended his decision by citing the Danish Prime Minister’s call to not let the tragedy alter life.

Author’s Resistance

"I’ve been working on it for four years and the idea is even older," Bluitgen said. The passages highlighted as controversial by local media constitute about two out of 760 pages, he said. While the timing of the book’s release is "unlucky" and there will be people who complain about the passages, "they shouldn’t control what I write."

The Islamic Society in Denmark has asked Danish police to be "attentive to the threat of hate crimes" against Muslims such as those that followed the January massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, Shah said. The organization already has gotten reports of assaults, he said.

Bluitgen "has his freedom of speech but we also have our freedom to feel sad and to ignore him," Shah said. Bluitgen’s freedom "is misused to ridicule an already marginalized minority."

Muslim women have been subject to increasing abuse, including having their head scarves pulled off and being spat upon, Fatih Alev, chairman and imam at the Danish Islamisk Center, said. So far, the weekend’s events haven’t led to additional violence, he said.

No Guarantee

"It’s not a guarantee," Alev said. "We are recommending that people avoid situations where they are vulnerable to possible attacks, that they are with others and don’t do things alone, which can minimize risks."

With a national election imminent in Denmark, some Muslims fear politicians may use the tragedy to limit religious practices. Jews and Muslims have battled with the government over circumcision and Kosher and Halal preparation of meat.

"It is difficult to find out where the lone wolf will pop up," Shah said. "This is not supposed to be made into a religious problem. We will see political factions trying to do that, but it will divide society."

Denmark’s Jewish community had sought heightened security before the weekend’s tragedy amid similar attacks throughout Europe, according to Juhl.

Radicalized People

After hearing media reports Saturday of the shooting at the free-speech debate, members in fact called for police to guard the bat mitzvah in Copenhagen, which became El-Hussein’s second target. Everyone is "very lucky" the additional police protection prevented him from getting any closer to the festivities, Juhl said.

"I don’t feel sorry for him, but I do feel sorry for all the Muslims living in Denmark and western Europe who have been made hostages by these radicalized people," Juhl said. They are "a major concern for any civilian living in the western world, Europe, right now, and very much so for Jewish communities."

© Copyright 2022 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Denmark's Jews and Muslims are bracing themselves for a new round of tumult in the wake of shootings by a terrorist gunman that killed two people.A novel, The Best Book, satirizing religions including Islam, will be released Feb. 27. The book was written by Kaare...
Denmark, Jews, protection, tumult
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 06:12 PM
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