Salafist radicalisation raises fears in Germany

Radical ideology. German police guard outside the Islamic Society of Hildesheim (DIK) mosque after a raid in Hildesheim in Germany, last March. (AP)

2017/04/09 Issue: 101 Page: 16

London - The number of Salafists in Germany has sharply in­creased in the past dec­ade, Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said, rais­ing fears of radicalisation at a time when authorities are seeking to shut down extremist preachers.

Government figures indicate there were an estimated 3,800 Salafists in Germany in 2011. This figure almost doubled to 7,500 in 2015. Two years later, there are more than 10,000 Salafists in the country, local media reported.

“In Germany, as well as at the international level, Salafism is cur­rently being regarded as the most dynamic Islamist movement,” the BfV said.

Salafism is an ultra-orthodox in­terpretation of Islam that gained prominence in the 18th century. It advocates what it describes as a re­turn to the traditions of early years of Islam and prizes a restrictive in­terpretation of the teachings of the Quran. The term “Salaf” relates to the Arabic term al-salaf al-saliheen — the “pious predecessors”, other­wise known as the first three gen­erations of Muslims.

A 2015 report by the German Fed­eral Office for Migration and Refu­gees (BAMF) said there were 4.4 million-4.7 million Muslims living in Germany, meaning that, despite the rising number of Salafists, they make up a tiny fraction of the Mus­lim community.

While most Muslims in Germany — particularly those who are Ger­man citizens — are thought to be of Turkish background and follow a secular understanding of the re­ligion, it is understood that an in­creasing number of mosques and Muslim community centres are promoting Salafist views about Is­lam.

Although the BfV was at pains to draw a distinction between the “majority of Salafists”, who have nothing to do with terrorism, it did accept the presence of an “oppos­ing minority of jihadist Salafists who use violence to pursue their aims”. The BfV added that all Is­lamist terrorists identified in Ger­many had some ties to “Salafism or the Salafist milieu”.

While most adherents to the ultra-conservative strain of Islam are not considered politically radi­cal and traditionally view political involvement as un-Islamic, a desire for the implementation of Islamic Sharia law and an Islamic caliphate leaves some members at risk of radicalisation.

German Vice-Chancellor Sig­mar Gabriel, who leads the coun­try’s Social Democratic Party, last year called for a ban on Salafist mosques after an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack. “Salafist mosques must be banned, the communities dissolved and the preachers should be expelled as soon as possible,” he said.

Despite their comparative small number, German’s Salafists are thought to be much more organ­ised than followers of other Islamic schools of thought in the country. German authorities have begun a series of measures targeting Salafist groups, most recently against the German-speaking Islamic Circle group in Hildesheim.

“Banning the association has crushed a hotspot for the radical Salafist scene in Germany,” Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pis­torius said.

In November 2016, Germany car­ried out raids in 60 cities target­ing 190 mosques, apartments and offices believed to be linked to a Salafist missionary network known as “The True Religion”. The group had been operating in Germany for more than ten years and was popu­larly known for a nationwide cam­paign distributing translations of the Quran to ordinary people.

The group was banned by the government in 2016 after facing accusations that it sought to radi­calise young people and encour­age them to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and other jihadist groups.

The German Interior Ministry said the ban had nothing to do with its distribution of Qurans and was tied to the fact that as many as 140 youths left Germany to join ex­tremist groups in the Middle East after becoming involved with the group. “The ban is directed against the abuse of religion by people propagating extremist ideologies and supporting terrorist organisa­tions under the pretext of Islam,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

“We don’t want terrorism in Ger­many and we don’t want to export terrorism,” he added.

With additional reporting by news services.

As Printed
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar


Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor

Subscription & Advertising:

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved