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(photo credit: AP [file])
Denmark's most prominent Muslim leader, who led criticism of a Danish newspaper that published drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, has decided to leave the country, the daily reported Thursday.
Imam Ahmed Abu Laban said he has felt humiliated in the aftermath of the cartoon controversy, which led to riots around the world, and that he would leave Denmark to return to Gaza with his family, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper wrote.
"I have recently felt that I am being viewed as a simple terrorist. No human being can accept that. It is an extreme humiliation," Abu Laban was quoted as saying. "I have taken the decision to leave Denmark."
Abu Laban, who settled in Denmark as a Palestinian refugee in the 1980s, has repeatedly accused Denmark of being disrespectful of Islam and Muslim immigrants.
"I believe that the Islamic cause has been a test for the Western democracies. I believe it has been proven that the Western democracies have no room for human rights," he was quoted as saying.
The report gave no other details of Abu Laban's emigration plans. He was not immediately available for comment.
The 12 drawings published in the Jyllands-Posten in September prompted angry mobs to attack Western embassies in Muslim countries, including Lebanon, Iran and Indonesia. The cartoons were reprinted in several European countries.
Abu Laban is the leading figure of the Copenhagen-based Islamic Faith Community, representing about 10 percent of Denmark's 200,000 Muslims.
The community is part of a network of 27 Danish Islamic organizations which filed a defamation lawsuit against Jyllands-Posten in March, after Denmark's top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.
In December and January, Muslim leaders living in Denmark traveled abroad to seek international support for their campaign against the Danish newspaper. Abu Laban has been widely criticized for defending those trips.
Jyllands-Posten has apologized for offending Muslims, but stood by its decision to print the drawings, citing freedom of speech.
Muslim leaders in Denmark and abroad have condemned the drawings, one of which shows Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet out of concern such images could lead to idolatry.
In January, police questioned Abu Laban over secretly taped comments that appeared to allude to terrorism. No charges were made.
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