Europe's ex-Muslims to sign declaration of tolerance on 9/11

Amsterdam, Netherlands - The heads of several European committees for former Muslims are due to sign a 'European Declaration of Tolerance ' in The Hague on September 11. With the declaration, the ex-Muslim committees of Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden want to draw attention to what they say is "the lack of freedom of religion within Islamic culture."

In its press release on Thursday, the Dutch committee of ex- Muslims said September 11 - the anniversary of the terror attacks on the United States - was chosen symbolically to condemn terror and the intolerance of political Islam.

The European movement of ex-Muslim committees was launched February 2007 by Iranian Mina Ahadi in Germany, followed by Iranian- born Ehsan Jami in the Netherlands.

The dominant interpretation of Islamic doctrine prohibits Muslims from renouncing their faith. In recent months, self-declared ex-Muslims in Europe have been threatened by orthodox Muslims for renouncing their faith publicly.

Ahadi lives under heavy security in Germany, while Jami was moved to a safe house in the Netherlands after being attacked for a third time because of his views on August 4.

The attacks took place after Jami referred to the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a "horrible man" in several interviews and said he wanted to start a debate about domestic violence and human rights in Islam.

One of his suspected attackers, a 17-year old male, has since been arrested.

Jami said it was necessary to overcome what he called "persistent taboos" in Muslim society about leaving the faith when he founded the committee for former Muslims.

He is also a member of the city council for the Labour Party in Leidschendam-Voorburg near The Hague. Following his attack, the party initially declined to support Jami and his committee publicly.

On August 10, Minister of Finance and Vice-Prime Minister Wouter Bos, said in an interview with the daily Volkskrant that he did not approve of a committee "which offends Muslims and their faith."

But pressure on Labour to support Jami has since increased, forcing Jacques Tichelaar, the Labour faction leader in parliament, to sign a declaration of support for the committee of ex-Muslims.

The group of people supporting the committee had sent the declaration to several hundred opinion leaders, politicians and journalists in the Netherlands, asking them to stand behind the rights of former Muslims to renounce their faith.

But on Wednesday Han Noten, Labour's faction leader in the senate, protested his party's signature on the declaration in an article published by the NRC Handelsblad.

Referring to the European Declaration of Tolerance, Noten wrote that "signing the declaration on September 11 can only be interpreted as a provocation. It suggests the issue is about the innocent and the guilty, with former Muslims being innocent and Muslims guilty."

Noten distanced himself from the Labour party leadership, but also from the committee of ex-Muslims, which he said was "oversimplifying" reality and "polarizing" society.