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Executive Editor:  Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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Swedish Muslims take anti-Prophet priest to court

STOCKHOLM, April 22, 2005– A top Swedish Muslim scholar said today that the minority would abide by the Swedish law in confronting a Christian preacher who insulted Prophet Muhammad, urging his fellow Swedish Muslims not to take the law into their own hands or commit any violent acts to avenge the repulsive remarks of the Christian cleric.

“We beg those who threatened (Runar) Sogaard, in the name of Islam, to let Swedish law judge between him and us,” Hassan Moussa, the head of Sweden’s council of imams, wrote in the Expressen newspaper, according to Reuters. “Do not under any circumstances take the law into your own hands.”

Celebrity evangelist preacher Runar Sogaard, in a sermon at Filadelfia church in Stockholm on March 20, repeated claims against Prophet Muhammad – whose Birthday Muslims worldwide celebrated on April 21 – saying the Seal of Prophets was “a confused pedophile” since his wives included a girl aged nine years old, alluding to the Prophet’s wife Aisha.

However, the age of Aisha when she married Prophet Muhammad was far from being confirmed, according to Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, the former President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, Garden Grove, California.

“Historically, it is not confirmed that she was nine years old when she came in the household of the Prophet. There are various reports from age nine to age 24. Her maturity, knowledge, intelligence, and contributions during the life of the Prophet and afterwards all indicate that she was either an exceptional nine-year-old or must have been older than that,”  Dr. Siddiqi added

The Muslim imam said that although Sogaard's comments “injured millions of Muslims all over the world, but they must not lead to violence like the murder last year of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh who was critical of Islam.

“We assure all honest Swedes that the tragic developments we witnessed in Holland will not take place here. Those who cast stones against us will not get stoned in return.”

Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gosh, known for his criticism of Islam, was killed last November, allegedly by a Muslim extremist after he directed an anti-Islam script that trigged anger of the Muslim minority in the Netherlands.

Van Gogh made his film in collaboration with a controversial politician of Somali descent, Ayaan Hirsi Ali,  who is a vocal critic of women’s treatment in Islamic countries and who was also under police protection after receiving death threats.

Marie Thorsensson, an official at Sogaard's church, told Reuters that the Christian preacher would not make any comment on the issue “except that the extract from his sermon is correct, but the sermon was not about Islam or Muhammad”.

Islam has become the second official religion in Sweden after Christianity, despite the fact that the Muslim community is a relatively new one, unlike that of other European countries such as France.

The first mosque was built in Sweden in 1976. The Swedish constitution allows Muslims to build mosques and Islamic schools.

Sweden also seats around 145 Islamic societies affiliated to three central Islamic unions, in addition to scores of mosques, praying halls and Islamic centers everywhere in the country. (Source: Media reports)