Largest mosque in NL drops imam over controversial remarks
The Essalam Mosque in Rotterdam, the largest mosque in the Netherlands, decided to break ties with imam Said Abarkan over Salafist remarks he made in the past. The decision was made after extensive deliberation. "We're parting ways in good consultation. In the interest of the future of the mosque. He understands that", Abdel Sadni said to AD on behalf of the mosque.
In a report on the rise of Salafist Islam, NRC and Nieuwsuur reported last week that imam Abarkan said that Muslims only belong in an Islamic country. He made these statements before he started working at the Essalam Mosques. "Even if you have a Dutch passport: the Netherlands is not our country", he said, according to the news agencies.
After the report, the mosque board said that it was shocked at did not know about the imam's Salafist background. The Essalam Mosque works to be involved in Dutch society, the board said. When asked about the statements, imam Abarkan said that the words had been taken out of context, Sadni said to AD. "He also distanced himself form the statement, but we still cannot continue together. As a mosque, we want to focus on the future."
The decision was carefully considered. The mosque board had several conversations with Abarkan and also asked a representative group of mosque attendees for advice. "There were different opinions, although the predominant one was: let's cut it. We did not want to make a hasty decision under pressure from the media. We are honest people. The imam deserves our respect as a person."