Germany may invoke a legal ban on radical Salafist Muslim groups, after violent clashes with the police over a Mohammed cartoon campaign put out by the right wing, anti-Islamization Pro NRW party.
Chicago Tribune Last weekend, Salafists turned on police protecting anti-Islam protesters during a regional election rally in the western German city of Bonn, injuring 29 officers, two of them seriously. Police arrested 109 people.
There have been similar clashes in other German towns in the past week, including in Cologne, where around 1,000 police were mobilized on Tuesday to keep Salafists and anti-Islam activists far apart.
“We will use all the possibilities at the disposal of a constitutional state to oppose them (violent Salafists) wherever they fight against… our constitutional order,” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told n-tv television.
“Germany will not allow anybody to impose religious wars on us, neither radical Salafists nor far-right parties such as the Pro NRW,” he said, referring to the ultra-nationalist that clashed with the Salafists in Bonn.
An interior ministry spokesman confirmed to Reuters that the government was examining the possibility of a ban on Salafist groups. “However, there is nothing official yet,” he added. Friedrich said Germany was home to some 4,000 Salafists, not all of whom were violent.
“Without question the Salafists are ideologically close to al Qaeda,” the minister told the Rheinische Post in a separate interview. “They have the clear political goal to destroy our liberal democracy. We will not allow them to do that.”
Salafists, whose roots are in Saudi Arabia, recently stirred unease with a campaign to hand out free copies of the Koran around the country, prompting conservative lawmaker Volker Kauder, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, to say Islam was not “part of our tradition and identity in Germany”.
Security experts have warned that German language Islamist propaganda is fuelling militancy among socially alienated Muslim youths in Germany. But despite the prominence of Germany in the saga of al Qaeda due to Hamburg’s role as a base for three of the September 11 suicide airline hijackers, its indigenous militant scene is much smaller than that in Britain or France, the experts say.
LA TIMES On Saturday, 29 police officers were injured, including two with serious knife wounds, and 109 Salafi Islamists were arrested in the former West German capital of Bonn after members of Pro NRW provoked the Salafists with mocking cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
“We will not tolerate these attacks on the constitutional state and our police officers and will increase our pressure on both Pro NRW and the Salafists as much as possible,” North Rhine-Westphalia’s governor, Hannelore Kraft, told the newspaper Bild. “That means denying entry to Salafists who are known to be violent, as well as preventing Pro NRW from showing any more anti-Islamic cartoons.”
Salafism is a movement within Sunni Islam that advocates a return to an earlier form of Islam. German intelligence service has said that nearly all violent jihadists in Germany have had prior contact with Salafists.
Authorities have forbidden more than 100 Salafists from entering Cologne and have said they won’t allow Pro NRW to demonstrate near the mosque. But efforts to prevent Pro NRW from using offensive images were complicated by two court rulings Monday that displaying cartoons of Muhammad was protected free speech.
“We will allow peaceful protest against the campaign event,” Cologne’s police chief, Michael Temme, said on Tuesday. But, he warned, “we will swiftly and systematically oppose any form of violence.”