Abd al Haqq Kielan, a Swedish imam and member of the Swedish Muslim Academy, has previously been ostracized and threatened by a Muslim organization in Sweden, for his condemnation of suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians.
Abd al Haqq Kielan grew up in Sweden under the name Leif Karlsson and converted to Islam about 30 years ago. He is also the Chairman for Svenska Islamiska Samfundet, (the Swedish Muslim Association).No, I don’t. Fortunately we have very little of Islamic radicalism in Sweden. This is not a radical statement, but rather an expression or idea that the imam picked up from somewhere and used in his prayer. It has nothing to do with Islam.
What is your opinion of this prayer that asks for the destruction of Jews, Americans and Brits?
I think we should see it in the context of what a prayer leader would say when a group of soldiers is going to battle, to protect their people and destroy the enemy. Speaking like this, however, calling for the annihilation of millions of people is absurd; it is a distortion of Islam. Traditionally, Muslims pray to God to protect them from “the deniers of God”, but these do not include Christians or Jews, who are also People of the Book.
Do you believe that this is representative for the views of Muslims in Sweden?
I agree with Jan Hjaerpe [Swedish islamologist] in his view that Muslim congregants don’t take such statements seriously. I don’t believe there are even 10 Muslims in Sweden who believe what this imam says. On the other hand, talking like this damages the perception of Muslims in Sweden.
Do you see this statement as a sign of increasing Islamic radicalism in Sweden?
Do you believe that anti-Semitism is widespread among Muslims in Sweden?
No, I don’t think so. There is strong sympathy for the situation of the Palestinians. But this is not Anti-Semitism, it is not about race but similar to feelings we might have towards the Russians in Chechnya. The majority of Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians is Sweden do not wish “to throw the Israelis into the sea”. They want a peaceful solution to the conflict and an end to the occupation.
Do you support the call for a recognized education or certificate for imams?
Yes, there is definitely a need for proper education for imams, which would include university studies in social science and a proper religious education. Many of the imams who come to Sweden lack education, they would not get a job anywhere in a Muslim country. They may be authoritarian, but they are not authorities on Islam.
How come such people are invited to serve as imams in Sweden?
Unfortunately, we cannot afford better imams. The Muslim community in Sweden, unlike the Jewish community, is not yet well established and lacks the financial resources to pay full salaries to educated imams.
This statement may be taken up by the prosecuting authority on charges of “incitement against a group of people”. What is your opinion on this?
That would not be a bad idea. It could serve as a warning to other people. It is absurd that people should preach such things in mosques in the name of Islam.