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ISLAM

Vilks cites KKK to defend talk to anti-Muslim group

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has defened his decision to speak at an anti-Islamic conference in New York on September 11th, claiming he would also accept an invitation from the Ku Klux Klan.

Vilks cites KKK to defend talk to anti-Muslim group

Vilks, the Swedish artist who enraged Muslim groups with his depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, agreed earlier this month to speak at a conference organized by the anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of Nations (SION).

Last week, however, an art gallery in northern Sweden booted him from a planned group exhibition because of his decision to accept the SION invitation.

Several of the other participating artists pulled out in solidarity with Vilks, stirring up a debate in Sweden this week about artistic freedom and Islamophobia.

The art exhibition, which was due to open on September 30th, has since been cancelled.

In a lengthy interview published in the Aftonbladet newspaper on Thursday, Vilks defended his decision to speak at the SION event.

“If the Ku Klux Klan had invited me, I would have gone,” he told the paper.

In the lengthy Aftonbladet interview, Vilks said that SION is a “demagogic” organization that “cannot be disregarded”.

“They have a growing political influence. Their campaigns generate violent attention,” Vilks said.

SION, an international network of counter-jihadist groups, was formed in January 2012. The group’s inaugural summit, which Vilks is due to speak at, will take place in New York on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

SION’s president, the controversial author and blogger Pamela Geller, has warned of the “Muslim agenda to grind away at our liberties until America is under Sharia law”.

She once suggested that Malcolm X was President Obama’s father and called him a “jihad president”.

Vilks was invited to the SION summit to speak about the global storm caused by his 2007 drawings showing the head of the Prophet Muhammad on a dog’s body.

Speaking to Aftonbladet, he explained that he is participating in the conference as an artist and that his visit is part of an ongoing art project.

“I’m obviously going to say that I’m there as an artist. That it’s a part of my art project. ‘You are a work of art’,” he said.

Vilks has received a series of death threats and is currently under round-the-clock surveillance by the Swedish Security Service.

However, he explained that he does not see Muslims as a threat.

“Islam doesn’t stand a chance against modernization,” he said.

“I regard it as a temporary hysteria.”

Speaking about immigration in Sweden, Vilks said he thinks that it’s too large in relation to the resources”.

“I don’t have any opinion on how many people are let in, but they must be taken care of. People think I hate Muslims and immigrants, but I don’t have a problem with people from other countries,” he said.

Vilks also lamented official Sweden’s approach to multiculturalism as “unbearable”.

“You’re supposed to celebrate Midsummer, but then you can’t because you need to have other groups represented so that we don’t appear to be racists,” he said.

“But multiculturalism isn’t something that can be stopped. It comes with internationalization automatically,” he told Aftonbladet.

The Local/nr

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ISLAM

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday

The mayor of Cologne has announced a two-year pilot project that will allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on the Muslim day of rest each week.

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday
The DITIP mosque in Cologne. Photo: dpa | Henning Kaiser

Mosques in the city of the banks of the Rhine will be allowed to call worshippers to prayer on Fridays for five minutes between midday and 3pm.

“Many residents of Cologne are Muslims. In my view it is a mark of respect to allow the muezzin’s call,” city mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.

In Muslim-majority countries, a muezzin calls worshippers to prayer five times a day to remind people that one of the daily prayers is about to take place.

Traditionally the muezzins would call out from the minaret of the mosque but these days the call is generally broadcast over loudspeakers.

Cologne’s pilot project would permit such broadcasts to coincide with the main weekly prayer, which takes place on a Friday afternoon.

Reker pointed out that Christian calls to prayer were already a central feature of a city famous for its medieval cathedral.

“Whoever arrives at Cologne central station is welcomed by the cathedral and the sound of its church bells,” she said.

Reker said that the call of a muezzin filling the skies alongside church bells “shows that diversity is both appreciated and enacted in Cologne”.

Mosques that are interested in taking part will have to conform to guidelines on sound volume that are set depending on where the building is situated. Local residents will also be informed beforehand.

The pilot project has come in for criticism from some quarters.

Bild journalist Daniel Kremer said that several of the mosques in Cologne were financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “a man who opposes the liberal values of our democracy”, he said.

Kremer added that “it’s wrong to equate church bells with the call to prayer. The bells are a signal without words that also helps tell the time. But the muezzin calls out ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah.’ That is a big difference.”

Cologne is not the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer.

In a region with a large Turkish immigrant community, mosques in Gelsenkirchen and Düren have been broadcasting the religious call since as long ago as the 1990s.

SEE ALSO: Imams ‘made in Germany’: country’s first Islamic training college opens its doors

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