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Concerns mount over mosque’s ties to Hamas TV station

Dansk Islamisk Råd denied having an agreement with Al-Aqsa TV, but the connection to the Hamas broadcaster is still seen as problematic (Johannsen Arkitekter)

Originally published in The Copenhagen Post - Vol. 16, Issue 37

Following mounting concerns over a co-operation between a new mosque and a Hamas-sponsored TV station, Islamic organisation Dansk Islamisk Råd has announced that it has no formal agreement in place with Al-Aqsa TV.

Mohamed al Maimouni, the media spokesperson for Dansk Islamisk Råd, which built the mosque on Rovsingsgade Road in the Østerbro district, told The Copenhagen Post last week on Thursday that the media centre would be used to produce content for several Arab TV stations, including Al-Aqsa TV.

According to al Maimouni, Dansk Islamisk Råd has created content for Al-Aqsa TV in the past and will continue to work with the broadcaster as long as what it reports is in line with his own organisation’s viewpoint.

“If they try to move their content into a political direction that we do not agree with, we will decline,” al Maimouni said.

But the day after The Copenhagen Post’s story set off a media storm, Dansk Islamisk Råd released a statement saying it had been misquoted.

“[Dansk Islamisk Råd] has considered formally collaborating with Al Jazeera and other selected news channels, but so far no firm agreements are in place,” the organisation stated.

Previous collaboration

In his remarks to The Copenhagen Post, however, al Maimouni confirmed that Arab stations Al Jazeera, Huda TV and Al-Aqsa TV were all interested in using the mosque’s media facilities.

Al Maimouni later made similar statements to media outlets including Berlingske Nyhedsbureau, Jyllands-Posten and Ekstra Bladet, but by the weekend Dansk Islamisk Råd was denying that it had any relationship whatsoever with Al-Aqsa TV.

“In regard to Al-Aqsa, we have no contract with them at all, so how could we have made an agreement with them?” al Maimouni told Ritzau. “We have nothing to do with them.”

But al Maimouni told both Politiken newspaper and The Copenhagen Post that Dansk Islamisk Råd previously worked wtih Al-Aqsa TV on a programme highlighting Palestinian Danes.

Al Maimouni told The Copenhagen Post that Dansk Islamisk Råd would continue to work with Al-Aqsa as long as the organisation’s ethical guidelines weren’t crossed.

“We have decided to keep working for Al-Aqsa as long as what they report is in line with our viewpoint,” al Maimouni said.

Dansk Islamisk Råd sent out two press releases following The Copenhagen Post’s story denying our account. Despite being the outlet that originally reported the connection, The Copenhagen Post did not receive either press release.

No broadcast licence

A spokesperson for Radio- og tv-nævnet told The Copenhagen Post that Al-Aqsa has not applied to broadcast from Denmark and that it was too early to tell whether it would be granted permission.

“The Radio and Television Act deals with the character of the broadcast programming, not the character of the broadcaster,” chief advisor Kaspar Lindhardt said.

Co-operation with Al-Aqsa TV could spell legal trouble for the mosque.

Hamas is recognised as a terror organisation by the EU, and because Al-Aqsa is owned and operated by the group, working with the channel from Denmark may break anti-terror legislation.

This legislation was recently used to revoke the broadcast licence of Kurdish TV station ROJ TV because of its connection to the separatist organisation the PKK, which is also on the EU’s list of terror organisations.

Disappointing relationship

But even if the TV station only uses the mosque’s facilities to produce content that is broadcast abroad, Jacob Mchangama, the director of legal affairs at liberal think-tank Cepos, argued that the relationship was damaging.

“From the point of view of the Muslim community in Denmark, it’s a shame that they worked so long for a formal mosque, only for the mosque to work together with a propaganda vehicle that is spreading anti-Semitism and religious fundamentalism,” Mchangama told The Copenhagen Post.

“I’ve watched a few clips from Al-Aqsa TV and they quite clearly glorify terrorism and anti-Semitism and would be prohibited if they were broadcast

Police investigation

The Justice Ministry said it would leave it up to the Copenhagen Police to investigate the case.

“I understand that the Copenhagen Police have started to investigate the case to see if Danish law has been broken,” the justice minister, Morten Bødskov, told The Copenhagen Post. “As justice minister I have, as a matter of principle, no comment on the case.”

Political concern

A number of politicians expressed concern that the new mosque has possible links to extreme groups such as Hamas.

The news that Al-Aqsa would be involved with the mosque confirmed the fears of Lars Aslan Rasmussen (Socialdemokraterne), a member of the City Council and spokesperson for the city’s social affairs committee.

“A few weeks ago, Dansk Islamisk Råd said that there would be no connection [to Qatar] and we can now see that is a lie,” Rasmussen said. “The mosque is a gift from Qatar, but it’s not free. I have always said that they will expect something in return, and this shows that they are making some claims for their money. This will not be a moderate mosque, and it will present integration problems.”

Aslan welcomed mosques being built in Copenhagen, but not the baggage from Qatar and Hamas.

“There’s nothing wrong with mosques – it’s just a problem that it already has a negative reputation.”

Martin Henriksen, the immigration spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti, called for a more robust response from Bødksov, however.

“The most recent developments confirm that there is reason to take a closer look at what will take place at this large new mosque,” Henriksen told DR Nyheder.

Mogens Jensen, Socialdemokraterne’s media spokesperson, expressed concern about the connection between the mosque and Hamas, but said the connection would not be sufficient to prevent it from operating in Denmark.

“We will have to see the content of the broadcasts before we can judge their character,” Jensen told Berlingske newspaper. “But we have tightened the law so that Radio- og tv-nævnet can ban broadcasts that promote terrorism.”

NOTE: This story was written in collaboration with my former Copenhagen Post colleagues Peter Stanners and Andreas Jakobsen

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