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Danish Muslim Leader Apologises For Mohammad Cartoons Protest

11/08/2013 15:56 BST | Updated 11/08/2013 15:57 BST
AP
FILE - Danish Muslim Ahmad Akkari poses at an undisclosed location in this file photo dated Aug. 2, 2013. Akkari was part of a group that traveled to the Middle East to voice complaints over newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and admits he was instrumental in the 2006 campaign against the Danish newspaper cartoons. 34-year-old Dane of Lebanese origin, Akkari told the Associated Press Wednesday Aug. 7, 2013, he now believes he was ?tricked? by Islamists who ?claim to have a monopoly over the interpretation? of Islam but now believes newspapers in Denmark have the right to depict who they want. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Joachim Adrian, file) DENMARK OUT

A Danish Muslim leader who spearheaded the uproar over newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad now says he regrets the violence and believes the Jyllands-Posten was right to publish them.

Once the spokesman for the imans who travelled to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria to whip up anger against the newspaper and the Danish government, Ahmad Akkari turned a small cartoon strip into a diplomatic incident and a violent uprising.

"I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong," Akkari told The Associated Press 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."

Many in Denmark have questioned Akkari's sincerity. Michael Ulveman, who was an adviser to then-Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Ramussen during the cartoon crisis, posted on Facebook: "I think Ahmad Akkari should go on al-Jazeera and tell the Arabic world about his new realisation.

"That would have real value for Denmark and the freedom of speech. And convince many of us about the depth and reach of his reorientation."

Akkari still describes himself as a practicing Muslim but a trip to Lebanon to meet fellow fundamentalists saw him start to question the mindset.

"I was shocked. I realized what an oppressive mentality they have," he said.

Now, Akkari has moved to teach at a school in Greenland, and has shaved off his beard.

Last week he apologised in person to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, who has faced multiple death threats and murder attempts from extremists.

"I met a man who has converted from being an Islamist to become a humanist who understands the values of our society," Westergaard said. "To me, he is really sincere, convincing and strong in his views."