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Denmark at a Crossroad After Two People Killed in Attacks in Copenhagen

"Old lady lighting a candle in honor of #CopenhagenShooting victims 2night in front of Aarhus city Hall alongside 100s," tweets @Fatenhbu

“Old lady lighting a candle in honor of #CopenhagenShooting victims 2night in front of Aarhus city Hall alongside 100s,” tweets @Fatenhbu

In 2013, Denmark was crowned as the “happiest nation in the world”, allowing Danes to take pride in the safe, tolerant and free environment their country provides for its people. On Valentine’s Day, love was not in the air of a Copenhagen cafe. A man opened fire at a free speech debate in a local café, leaving the nation in shock and disbelief.

The man, identified by Danish media as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, 22, fired several shots during the event killing 55-year-old film director Finn Norgaard. Later on, in a separate attack, El-Hussein shot dead Dan Uzan, 37, a Jewish man who was guarding the Copenhagen synagogue overnight.

The two attacks carried out by the same man also left five policemen wounded. The man responsible for the attacks was shot dead by police on Sunday morning in his neighborhood of Norrebro. Danish police also arrested two people in connection with the attacks, stating they aided the suspect by providing him with arms and helping him hide.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who was attending the event, has previously received death threats for his drawings of Prophet Mohammed, and is believed to be the intended target. He has now gone into hiding. Also attending was French ambassador Francois Zimeray. Both were unharmed in the attack.

On Twitter, Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian's Paris correspondent, shares this photograph of the front window of the bar, riddled with bullets:

Investigations later revealed that El-Hussain has just been released from prison, after serving a sentence for stabbing a teenage passenger on the train in 2013.

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard told the BBC the suspect was on the police’s radar for his previous gang activities, saying that he wasn’t a returning fighter, but a Danish citizen with a violent reputation. He urged the Danish people to “stand together” and “not live in fear”.

People on social media immediately expressed support and solidarity, and posted photographs of people gathering outside the synagogue and placing flowers at the site where Uzan was shot.

Danish born Arab Philip Halloun created an image of the Danish flag, with Arabic text on it that reads: “Denmark my home”. He shared the image on his Facebook page and it soon got many likes and shares:

10993518_10153091561160148_7970963613680314384_o

And FunAbridged shared this meme:

France, not a rookie in dealing with targeted violence following the Charlie Hebdo attack, showed no hesitation in extending support to Denmark.

The French paper Libération showed solidarity by dedicating the front page headline to Denmark “We Are Danes”:

#IamCharlie, #IamDanish

And Maxime Haes shared this cartoon, showing France's solidarity with Denmark:

Very beautiful cartoon. Very powerful.

Lynn, a 21-year-old Japanese exchange student in Aarhus who did not want her last name to be identified, says she was expecting friends to visit her for her birthday this week, but was surprised when her friends told her their parents were against them traveling to Europe at this time, because they feared the region may be a target for attacks, especially after ISIS released a video claiming to have beheaded a Japanese journalist. Lynn told Global Voices Online that she tried to convince them that Denmark was safe, and was reassured by her friends in Denmark that there was no safer place than here.

I was quite surprised about this attack and was relieved that they didn't come. When my friends told me about cancelling their trip, I thought it was too much, but now, I think their decision was right. Everywhere has potential to be attacked.

Lynn was celebrating Valentine’s and her birthday with other friends in Copenhagen at the time of the attacks and realized that nowhere is truly safe.

Last night, the city of Aarhus joined Copenhagen in mourning the victims of the shootings. Hundreds of people gathered around City Hall as the Mayor of Aarhus Jacob Bundsgaard urged the Danish society to stand united and believe in the values of democracy and freedom. People raised the flag of Denmark, lit up candles, and left flowers to honor the victims of the shootings in Copenhagen last weekend.

Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, is known to be the home of the controversial paper that originally printed the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. It is also home to the controversial mosque, Grimhøj mosque, that allegedly supported ISIS publicly, and is responsible for sending at least 22 of the 100 fighters that left Denmark to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq — allegations that the mosque’s Imam Abu Bilal Ismael has denied.

In an interview I conducted with the Imam, he claimed he had no idea of who goes to fight until after they return, arguing that the mosque does not encourage young adults to join fighters abroad. He suggested that what these young adults see on social media and the atrocities committed by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad trigger their sense of jealousy and protective nature of their religion and people, which may have led them to go fight alongside their brothers and sisters abroad.

Ismael is also reported to have publicly called for the killing of Jews previously, according to a video that has surfaced on social media again following the death of the Jewish guard.

He explained his position saying he was simply saying a prayer asking God to take revenge and punish the Zionist killers, specifically those who commit crimes against humanity in Gaza, Palestine, and not the Jewish people in general.

“I didn’t call for the killing of non-Muslims and it’s not in our religion to do so, because our religion forbids us to call for killing of the innocent. I didn’t call for the killing for the innocent people whether Jewish or non-Jewish. They took my words out of context and repainted them in a different picture,” he said.

Aarhus has been also widely criticized, especially by conservative parties like the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, for adopting a soft approach in dealing with returning jihadists by finding them jobs and helping them reintegrate within the Danish society. This contrasts with tough laws adopted by neighboring countries like France, Germany and the UK.

But for a blogger who goes by the name Che's Little Brother, the incident should be taken as an opportunity to discuss immigration and multiculturalism in Denmark:

  • too many leftists

    Why don’t you show the muslims destroying the flowers and praying for dead terrorist?

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