By Alex Newman
STOCKHOLM, Sweden – In the wake of death threats against politicians and calls for a violent overthrow of government, German authorities are cracking down hard on Islamic extremism, most recently banning three Salafist groups seeking to impose Shariah law in Germany.
On March 13, the same day that the federal Interior Ministry unveiled the ban of the extremist organizations, police also announced that they had foiled an unrelated Islamist assassination plot against a right-wing political leader in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Advertisement - story continues below
Four radical Salafists were arrested in connection with the attempted attack, which was allegedly aimed at murdering chief of the anti-Islamist "PRO-NRW" party Markus Beisicht.
According to authorities, two of the men were caught watching Beisicht. A gun and bomb-making materials were seized during the arrests, police said.
The intended victim
In an interview with WND, Beisicht said he was especially worried about his family, noting that his wife and two young daughters were home on the night of the assassination attempt.
Advertisement - story continues below
"Fear is a bad counselor," he noted. "But I take the risk very seriously and have consulted with the police and am taking vital security measures that I don't want to mention in closer detail. Just this: From now on I will be guarded 24 hours a day, for example, by several policemen."
Beyond his personal safety, however, Beisicht said the threat to Germany and the West in general was "very serious."
"These terrorists are ready for anything, as I know from my conversations with police security," he explained.
"The Islamists want to force us to speak and act only as they want," the anti-Islamist political leader continued. "They believe Shariah should apply in Germany and Europe as it does in Saudi Arabia. And that would be the end of democracy and freedom of the Western type."
Pushback against Islamists' Shariah agenda also developed recently in Australia, where Sydney resident Amon Ross said, "They've rioted in our streets and assaulted our police officers. They've raped our women and said they deserve it. They laugh at and in our courts. They're shooting up the south-west of Sydney. They're advocating for Shariah. Every time we fly on a plane, we're reminded of what they have done to the world."
Advertisement - story continues below
Unfortunately, Beisicht added, German authorities are still not doing enough to counter the threat of radical Islam.
"Especially the left-wing regional authorities in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia have downplayed the Islamist threat for years while they harassed peaceful conservative opposition such as PRO NRW with the domestic intelligence service," Beisicht explained, singling out NRW Interior Minister Ralph Jäger.
To deal with the "the danger of Islamization and Islamic terrorism in Germany," on which Beisicht and his party have been sounding the alarm about for years, he said German authorities needed to get serious about it – "also on behalf of our fellow Jewish citizens, whose security is close to our hearts."
Advertisement - story continues below
"Hatemongers without German citizenship must be reported immediately," Beisicht told WND. "Salafist associations must be banned immediately, and the focus of the police and domestic intelligence must be placed on the Islamist scene immediately."
There are, however, some indications that the German federal government is becoming increasingly concerned as well.
German government reacts
The same day that the assassination attempt against Beisicht was stopped, federal authorities in Germany launched a massive raid involving hundreds of officers across multiple states against the three Islamist groups banned in mid-March.
Advertisement - story continues below
At least 20 residences were searched as part of the operation, with authorities seizing the groups' assets and documents.
Among the targeted organizations were DawaFFM and Islamische Audios, which produced radical Islamist propaganda.
The third group, known as An-Nussrah, was apparently connected to the Millatu Ibrahim, an organization that was outlawed and dissolved last year, federal authorities told WND.
All three groups have been formally dissolved and are considered outlawed under a German law allowing authorities to ban organizations that represent a threat to the constitutional democratic order – a tactic used in the past to deal with neo-Nazi elements.
"The Salafism represented by the organizations banned today is simply incompatible with our free and democratic system," Federal Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party said in a statement e-mailed to WND.
The three groups, he added, "are aggressively striving to replace democracy in our society with a Salafist system, to replace the rule of law with Shariah."
"For this reason, the measures taken today also protect the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who want to live in peace," Friedrich continued. "They must not be forced to suffer from conflicts intentionally incited by extremists."
Salafism is a branch of radical Islam that essentially seeks to establish an Islamic so-called caliphate governed exclusively by Shariah law across the Middle East, and eventually the world.Authorities said that taking decisive action against Salafist elements was an expression of the German government's willingness to defend democracy.
The ministry acknowledged that banning organizations represents a "serious restriction of basic rights" and that Germany's "Basic Law" requires "a comprehensive weighing up of legally protected interests before a ban can be enacted."
However, in these cases, officials said that the groups in question were involved in constant and aggressive efforts to radicalize and indoctrinate others, potentially leading to terrorist attacks – something that the ministry said could not be tolerated any longer.
"Recent history shows where unfettered Salafist radicalization can lead," Minister Friedrich said. "I am thinking of the first jihadist attack completed on German soil, the attack on U.S. troops at Frankfurt Airport in March 2011."
"This kind of threat demands a decisive preventive response as well as prosecution in the individual case," he added.
The crackdown effort comes two years after a young Islamist from Kosovo shot and killed two U.S. soldiers on their way to Afghanistan from the Frankfurt airport in Germany.
The killer, 21-year-old Arid Uka, was allegedly encouraged to assassinate the American troops by Salafist propaganda found on the Internet, according to German prosecutors.
Interior Ministry explains
In a phone interview with WND, German Interior Ministry press office chief Jens Teschke said the bans announced on March 13 were based on findings from an investigation launched last year.
"There was a time coincidence but no actual relation between the three associations that we banned and the four Salafists that were arrested," he explained. "The federal ministry didn't have anything to do with the arrests – that was the local government of North Rhine-Westphalia."
The prosecution of the alleged plotters, however, is now in the federal Justice Ministry's realm, Teschke added.
Speaking about outlawing the three groups, the spokesman said no arrests were made but that propaganda materials, computers, and funds were confiscated. No criminal charges have been filed.
So far, Teschke said, authorities have not found evidence that the groups were actually planning to carry out violent attacks.
"In order to ban a movement or an association, we need to have findings and proof that they want to overthrow the democratic basic order in Germany," Teschke explained, adding that, like several neo-Nazi groups banned under the same law, the three Islamist groups fit the criteria.
"We can pin-point in their messages that they reject democracy as a governmental form, they want to introduce Shariah, they want to have a religious government, and they make calls to overcome the public order by violence," he said.
The groups, Teschke continued, have produced jihadist propaganda videos and sermons "declaring a holy war on Germany and encouraging young people to use violence as a political means."
"So that's why we said we can no longer just tolerate the messages, we have to ban them," he said.
When asked what would prevent the individuals involved from simply forming more organizations to do the same thing, Teschke suggested that authorities would be following up.
"Of course these people could form a new association, and we have to look very carefully and very closely at what those people are doing," he said.
"Our experience shows some of them stopped activities entirely, some of them go to Egypt or closer African regions, and of course some of them are still under observation, so we can see what we will do next," he added.
According to the Interior Ministry's findings, about 70 percent of the Islamists involved in the banned organizations hold German citizenship. Many also hold dual citizenship with other countries.
"I have no knowledge if they are German born or if they are just naturalized Germans," Teschke said.
While their ranks may be small – official estimates suggest there are currently about 4,500 Salafists operating in Germany, up from 3,800 last year, according to authorities – the threat is real and the figures are growing fast.
"We see this with a growing concern," Teschke explained. "Our numbers show that the Salafists are the strongest growing religious movement in Germany."
"We usually point out that not all Salafists are terrorists, but all terrorist groups on these Islamic issues have been, at one point or another, with the Salafists," he added.
Of the estimated 4,500, Teschke said the Interior Ministry considers about 1,000 to be "of greater danger – of high potential to commit acts of violence."
"Within these 1,000 we have 130 so-called people who are dangerous," he continued, using the German word. "They are actual people that we assume are able and willing to commit serious crimes and serious acts of violence, so these 130 are under strict surveillance."
The Interior Ministry also has evidence that there is a great deal of travel among some Islamists between Germany and various Middle Eastern nations.
"Egypt has been a turning point where they go, and some of them try to go to Mali to fight jihad there, or they go to Syria, as well as to Somalia and Yemen," Teschke said, adding that there is no law to prevent them from traveling and that they obviously do not publicly declare their intention to go wage jihad abroad.
That does not mean nobody is paying attention, though.
"We are aware of the danger and we try to keep track of those people, we are on alert and we try to prevent them from re-entering the country," he explained.
While the government appears to be concerned about the threat, prominent activists and leaders worry that authorities are not doing nearly enough.
More should be done, say analysts
Stefan Herre, founder of Politically Incorrect, Germany's biggest blog with almost 100,000 unique visitors daily, said the recent crackdown on the Salafist groups was not nearly enough.
"We don't want to 'ban' a group, that's for sure – not even the Salafists," he told WND when asked whether outlawing organizations was appropriate. "But we want each person in our country to obey the Constitution and all other laws too; Salafists must also be included."
"A Muslim group whose members say that their law, the Shariah, is higher than our laws, is simply not compatible with us," Herre said, citing violent actions by Salafists in Germany and around the world.
When a pattern of violence emerges, he added, authorities must act.
"We should protect ourselves and say that in our country, everybody is welcome who obeys our laws," he said.
The threat from radical Islamists to Germany and Europe more broadly is "very serious, as we know from other countries," Herre argued, pointing to numerous successful and attempted terror attacks.
Authorities, meanwhile, are "definitely not" doing enough to deal with the issue, he continued, saying the government was ignoring the signs and acting only after something happens.
"In fact, German governments – federal and state – even act against German democratic groups which try to expose the spirit of those Salafists," he added.
Herre said authorities in Israel were doing "a much better job" and that most European governments were not taking the dangers seriously enough.
"There is a hope to see in other countries like the Netherlands," he added, pointing to Party of Freedom founder Geert Wilders and his high-profile efforts to stop radical Islamism.
Even in countries like Switzerland, Austria and Sweden there are some encouraging signs as anti-Islamist politicians gain increasing prominence, according to Herre.
Still, he added, "many people don't know what's going on."
Muslims urge caution
Abdirazak Waberi, vice president and head of public relations for the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), however, urged caution in dealing with the issue.
"On a basic level, I think Muslims, as citizens of Germany, have the same rights and obligations, and should be able to work in the public arena exactly as any other German citizen," he told WND.
However, Waberi, also a Moderate Party member of the Swedish Parliament, noted that he could not comment on the specific cases in Germany because he was not aware of them or what evidence may have been used to justify the Interior Ministry's decisions.
"As far as these groups are concerned... on principle alone, I think these matters should be handled very carefully because it might sometimes lead to more Islamophobic actions against Muslims and increase the tensions between citizens in Europe," he explained.
"Muslims, exactly like all citizens, should abide by the rule of law, the law that governs all citizens of the countries, and they should abide by these laws exactly like all citizens," Waberi concluded.
Responding through politics
In Germany, though, prominent activists on the front lines insist that some radical Islamists refuse to abide by the laws.
"They want to install an Islamic state with Shariah law in Germany," said Michael Stürzenberger, a veteran journalist and vice chairman of the pro-Western political party "The Freedom," or Die Freiheit in German.
Stürzenberger told WND that the actions by Germany's Interior Ministry were "very important measures."
"The Salafist groups are dangerous," he added, saying that the attempted assassination of Beisicht was really an attack against everybody who criticizes Islam.
"The danger is growing rapidly, because the Salafists are very active," Stürzenberger continued. "They want to spread 30 million Quran books in Germany, they talk to young men in the streets, promise them nice Muslim girls from North African countries like Tunisia, so many people are converting."
"The whole Western world is in a very big danger of becoming Islamized," he said, insisting that focusing just on Salafists and so-called "extremists" was not enough.
According to Stürzenberger, a strong critic of Islam, the root of the problem is actually Islam itself.
"We have to learn this is not only a religion, but a totalitarian political ideology with its own system of law," he argued. "The mainstream parties in Europe are not able to deal with the problem."
Christianity touted as the answer
Beyond politics, many opponents of radical Islamism see Christianity as the real solution.
Fouad Adel, an evangelical pastor originally from the Sudan who has lived in Germany for 20 years, possesses a deep understanding of Islam, the Quran and Shariah – indeed, his mother tongue is Arabic and he has studied the issues for decades.
"The first step which we should take is to inform our society about the real face of Islam," he told WND.
As a lecturer and theologian with the Christian Information Service, a small organization dedicated to preaching the Gospel among German-speaking nations and winning souls for Christ, Adel is already hard at work exposing what he sees as the true nature of Islam.
"The second step, we will try to enlighten the hearts of Muslims with the light of the Gospel," he explained. "Without the light of our Gospel, they will stay in their darkness, so one of our duties to withdraw this radicalism from their hearts can only be done through the light of our Lord Jesus Christ – the light of the Gospel.”
WND attempts to reach the German Salafist groups in question were unsuccessful.
Multiple Islamic organizations in Europe did not respond to requests for comment.