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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Danish Sermon Lures Reverts, Youths

By Nidal Abu Arif, IOL Correspondent

Imam Abdel Wahid Pedersen delivered the first ever Danish sermon last Friday.

COPENHAGEN — A milestone step by the Muslim Council in Denmark to use the native language in delivering the Friday sermon – the main weekly gathering of Muslims – has immediately appealed to new Muslims, non-Arabic speakers and the second generation of Muslims born and raised in the Scandinavian country.

"I always felt out of place in mosques were the sermons was delivered in Arabic, Turkish or Urdu. I couldn't make head nor tail of the sermon," Madis Wstbrik, a 2o-year-old Dane who embraced Islam two years ago, told IslamOnline.net.

The unprecedented sermon was delivered at the Muslim Council on Friday, December 1, by Imam Abdel Wahid Pedersen, himself a revert.
He tackled spiritual aspects as well as some political issues like the situation in Iraq and other Muslim hotbeds.

"This time around I felt at home. I identified with the imam and felt he was talking to me and feeling my needs," said Wstbrik.

"He has recharged my faith batteries," added a visibly moved Wstbrik.
Others agreed that language is the best courier of ideas to the worshippers.
They say sermons in Danish help Muslims irrespective of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Sermons used to be delivered in different languages like Arabic, Turkish and Iranian with simultaneous interpretation into Danish.

There are about 180,000 Muslims in Denmark, according to unofficial estimates.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after the Lutheran Protestant Church, which is actively followed by four-fifths of the country's population.

Building Bridges
The Danish Friday sermon is seen as a way to build bridges with non-Arabic-speaking Muslims and help them better understand Islam.

"Delivering the sermon in a language other than Danish creates barriers between the imam and the youths, who cannot grasp the message of the homily," said imam Pedersen.
"Some imams risk losing touch with the worshippers, particularly when they uses complicated terminology," he added.

"Delivering the sermon in Danish is very much appealing to the youths who get the advice directly without simultaneous interpretation that could be inaccurate," said the imam.
"I try to strike the right balance between spiritual and modernistic aspects of this life," Pedersen said. "I also touch on hot topics in Denmark and the world."

Jihad Al-Fara, the Muslim Council President, said the move would enhance communication between Muslims of different ethnicities and help them integrate into society.

"We are putting our heads together and have joined forces with other Islamic organizations to render the experience a success," he told IOL.

"We primarily target the second generation of Danish Muslims."

Fara, however, said using the Danish language will not substitute the Arabic entirely.
He added that the Council will continue to offer religious classes in both Arabic and Danish.
Last month, the second Danish translation of the meanings of the Noble Qur'an and the first by a non-Muslim saw the light.

Muslim community leaders welcomed the translation and hoped it would be useful for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

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