Naser Khader is a Danish politician, who was born in Damascus, Syria. He identifies as Muslim, but at the same time, he believes Islam is presently in “crisis.”
Currently serving in the Danish parliament, Khader wants the burqa to be banned and he argues that Islamism and Islam aren’t entirely separate. Whereas other Western politicians from the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May to former U.S. President Barack Obama have been careful to make a distinction between Islam, the religion, and jihadi terrorists, Khader doesn’t choose his words so carefully.
“We can’t deny it. Those that commit these crimes are Muslims, they use Muslim arguments, they use passages from the Quran,” he said, according to OZY.
Khader, who is currently the foreign policy spokesperson for the Conservative Party, feels it’s his “obligation” to speak on this topic.
“It’s much easier for me than for my colleagues who are white and Christian,” he said.
The Danish-Syrian politician has some fairly liberal and controversial views when it comes to his religion. For one, the thinks the Quran should be updated and translated into modern-standard Arabic, so it is easier to interpret and understand in today’s world.
He also believes that Sharia should only be practiced as a matter of individual faith, not implemented as a legal system, and he thinks it needs to be stressed that Muhammad is just a prophet, and not God. Overall, he believes that Islam needs a true revolution.
Many may question Khader’s Muslim faith, but he considers himself a “reform” or “moderate” Muslim.
“I have faith but I am not religious. I don’t pray, I don’t fast, but Islam is a part of my culture,” he said.
In the wake of the 2005-2006 Danish “cartoon crisis,” Khader formed a group called Moderate Muslims. As many of the country’s Muslims were protesting and rioting a local newspaper’s decision to publish provocative cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad, Khader and his group voiced their support for the cartoonist and freedom of speech.
Explaining his position, Khader referenced his childhood in Syria.
“I know what it is like to live without freedom,” he said.
When it comes to his homeland, Khader has taken a position in support of the war’s victims. In October of last year, Khader and several other MPs were thrown out of parliament when they attended a session wearing t-shirts in support of Aleppo’s suffering civilians.
“We have ample opportunity to express our opinions from the speaker’s podium – that’s why we are politicians,” the Speaker of Parliament Pia Kjærsgaard said following the incident, according to the CPH Post.
“It is not acceptable to sit in t-shirts or other items of clothing that convey a political standpoint,” she said.
The t-shirts said: “Syria, Aleppo, Bleeding #savesyria.”
At the same time, Khader has voiced a somewhat stern stance on immigration and refugees. In March, he said that illegal immigration and refugees are a primary concern to Denmark.
He pointed out at the government’s current mandate says that Denmark is “facing the challenge of both Putin and immigration,” according to The Local.
Despite his controversial stances, Khader is perceived as likable by many. At the same time, he has kept two personal security guards for protection since 2006.
Beyond his stances on Islam, Khader is a strong supporter of women’s rights and culture. At the same time, he advocates for stronger shows of force both internally when it comes to policing, and internationally through NATO, specifically in the context of Syria.
But while Khader may readily promote himself as Muslim, some say it’s not to attract Muslim voters.
He’s “the only one” of the country’s few Muslim MPs “who will deliberately play the Islam card,” said Professor of Contemporary European Islam Jorgen Nielsen, “and it is clearly not to attract the Muslim vote.”
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