UK
18/09/2013 14:40 BST | Updated 18/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Ahmed Akkari, Muslim Who Led Mohammad Cartoons Protests, 'Is No Longer Religious'

AP
Danish Muslim Ahmad Akkari

A Danish Muslim leader who helped instigate violent protests that ultimately cost the lives of 200 peoplehas said he is no longer a "practicing religious man."

Once the spokesman for the imans who travelled to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria to whip up anger against the 2005 Muhammad cartoons and the Danish government, Ahmad Akkari turned a small cartoon strip into a diplomatic incident and a violent uprising.

The uproar resulted in riots, embassy burnings, an international boycott of Danish products, and more than a hundred deaths.

Now, Akkari says he has changed his mind - not just about the Muhammad cartoons, but about Islam itself, admitting in a sensational interview with The Daily Beast that he regrets the violence and has suffered religious doubts.

"I'm not a practicing religious man as I was at that time," he told the website.

"I believe there must be a greater force or power--let's say God--but I really can't find him through all these religions."

After he admitted he is no longer attending a mosque, Akkari insisted his "problem isn't with 'God' but with "the representatives of God on earth."

Instead, Akkari has embraced philosophy, escaping to Greenland to spend time in public libraries reading the Danish existentialist philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard.

"In this epic and barren environment," he went through an "existential crisis... of almost biblical proportions," Radio host Mads Holger and cultural critic Kasper Støvring said following an interview earlier this year with the former radical.

In a separate interview he admitted he looked back on his actions with regret.

"There was so much I didn't know. I read about the freedom fighters who throughout history have tried to prevent religion from curtailing free thought and I realised that Denmark was in fact the oasis my parents had imagined," he told Dispatch International.

Akkari claims that while in Greenland he "prayed to God never to send any Muslims" there because he "was so tired of corrupt imams spreading their totalitarian ideology that I was convinced they would not only melt the ice cap if they came there, but set it on fire."

On the podium of The Free Press Society in August this year he argued that as soon as a person becomes a devoted Muslim "you are infected by extremism."

Just the month before he admitted that following the Danish violence it was only later that he realised "how naive" he had been.

"The thoughts I had been inculcated, was too black / white. There were no shades, and my world was not mature," he told the Danish tabloid newspaper BT.

Danish Cartoon Protests