One of the leaders of the protest movement against a Danish newspaper publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad—protests which killed scores of people and engulfed the entire Islamic world in violence and protest—now says he was wrong. Ahmad Akkari, now 35, says he was way off base when he led the protests.
“I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari said this week. “At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam.”
He said he’s still a practising Muslim but started doubting his fundamentalist beliefs after a 2007 trip to Lebanon, where he met Islamist leaders. “I was shocked. I realized what an oppressive mentality they have,” Akkari said.
The story began all the way back in 2006 when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of cartoons depicting Muhammad in an unflattering light. While it was nothing you don’t see on the editorial pager/webcomics feed every day, negative portrayals of Muhammad are seen as an affront to Islam. The resulting controversy saw riots, deaths, massive debates over the nature of free speech vs religion, escalation of ethnic tensions around Europe and the world and a continuing death threat for cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.
Akkari has now apologized to Westergaard, moved to Greenland, and shaved off his beard.
In response, we can only quote the great Francisco Goya:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.