Danes blame Imam for fueling violence against them

Danes are pointing fingers at a shadowy grouping of Muslim leaders, accusing them of instigating a global firestorm over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad during their recent trips to the Middle East. Ahmed Abu Laban, the most prominent imam in the Islamic Faith Community, which is part of a loose Danish network of 27 Muslim organizations, said Friday he condemns the violence but he insisted the uproar has brought a better understanding of Muslim values in the West. Public opinion in Denmark turned against the group after several of its leaders went on trips to the Middle East in December, carrying a dossier with the cartoons from Jyllands-Posten and other images they said were offensive to Muslims. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused them of giving Denmark a bad name, saying he was "stunned" to learn about the trip. The leader of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, Pia Kjaersgaard, went a step further, accusing the group of conducting a defamation campaign against Denmark. A poll released Friday showed 58 percent of Danes believe the Danish imams bear the main responsibility for the recent spate of violence. The Megafon institute survey said 22% of the 1,033 Danes interviewed blamed Jyllands-Posten for first published the Muhammad drawings in September.