(CNSNews.com) - An Iranian-born Dutch politician under fire from Muslims for his dissenting views on Islam on Tuesday officially launched an organization to support people who have renounced the religion.
Ehsan Jami, a 22-year old Labor Party member elected to the council of a city near The Hague last year, announced at a press conference the establishment of an organization called the Committee for Ex-Muslims.
Similar groups have begun in recent months in Britain, Germany and Scandinavian countries.
According to leading Islamic schools of thought, apostasy is a crime, punishable by death in the case of a sane male who renounces his faith. Jami also is controversial for his strong public comments on Islam, including the view expressed last June that Mohammed, the Islamic prophet, was a "criminal."
At Tuesday's press conference, timed for the sixth anniversary of 9/11 and attended by leaders from the British and German organizations, Jami declared that Islam was not a religion of peace.
"It's a religion of submission ... of its followers, submission of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, infidels, the whole world," he was quoted as saying.
Last month, he was attacked by three men, in an incident believed to be linked to his views and the new organization. Although Jami was not hurt in what his spokesman said was the third such incident, Dutch law enforcement agencies decided to provide additional security for him.
Dutch critics of Islam have been targeted and threatened by radicals before. In 2004 a filmmaker was shot and stabbed to death by a Dutch-Moroccan extremist after making a provocative short documentary on violence against women in Islam.
The attack on Jami prompted a right-wing Dutch lawmaker, Geert Wilders, to pen an open letter calling for the Koran to be banned in the Netherlands. The call was widely rejected.
More than 80 leading figures in the Netherlands, including authors and leaders of several political parties - although not Jami's own Labor Party - have signed a declaration of support for him and the Committee for Ex-Muslims.
The declaration in Dutch, published in De Volkskrant newspaper on Tuesday, said that although the right to change religion is established in the Netherlands, it is "withheld from a substantial portion of the Dutch population, namely the Muslims."
About six percent of the Dutch population is Muslim.
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