The Bavarian branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), has placed under state surveillance German activists accused of fomenting hate against Muslims due to their opposition to the construction of a mega-mosque in Munich.
The move to silence critics of the mosque for being "unconstitutional" was announced by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann in a press conference on April 12, and represents an unprecedented threat to the exercise of free speech in post-reunification Germany.
Herrmann made the announcement while presenting an annual report about threats to democratic order in Germany. A seven-minute video of the press conference with subtitles in English can be viewed here.
Herrmann singled out a citizen's movement called Die Freiheit Bayern (Freedom Bavaria), as well as the Munich branch of a highly popular free speech blog called Politically Incorrect (PI), which focuses on topics related to immigration, multiculturalism and Islam in Germany.
Both groups have been drawing public attention to plans to build a massive mosque complex known as the Center for Islam in Europe-Munich (ZIE-M). The 6,000 m² (65,000 ft²) project, which will cost an estimated €40 million ($51 million), is designed to be a key strategic platform for spreading Islam throughout Europe.
Speculation is rife that the Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar -- which is building Wahhabi mega-mosques at a breakneck pace across Europe -- will be financing the project in Munich.
Members of Freedom Bavaria and PI (German equivalents to the American Tea Party movement, roughly speaking) are, according to Herrmann, "right-wing extremists who increasingly are establishing citizen's initiatives, in order to attract the attention of German voters, under the guise of civil involvement. In this way they use, for example, the discussion about the construction of mosques to arouse, in an anti-constitutional way, prejudices against Muslims and Islam."
Herrmann continued: "In Bavaria, this involves the Freedom Bavaria Party and the Munich chapter of Politically Incorrect (PI). Their activities are aimed, inter alia, at fomenting sweeping fears of Muslims and to disparage them because of their belief that Islam is a threat to the rule of law. As a result, religious freedom, human dignity and the principle of equal treatment as key components of our liberal democratic order are being violated."
Herrmann reserved special vitriol for Michael Stürzenberger, the chairman of Freedom Bavaria and the spokesman for the Munich chapter of PI, who is guilty of "initiating a campaign for a public petition against the Center for Islam in Europe-Munich as a platform for promoting anti-Islamic propaganda, whether on the Internet or at public events."
Stürzenberger's petition has garnered more than 20,000 signatures; he needs a total of 30,000 signatures to force a public referendum on the mosque project.
German intelligence began monitoring Freedom Bavaria and PI at the end of March 2013, and Bavaria is the first state in Germany to classify so-called Islam-haters as extremists, according to Burkhard Körner, the head of Bavarian intelligence.
By contrast, German intelligence stopped monitoring Benjamin Idriz -- the Macedonian imam behind the Munich mega-mosque project who has unsettling links to radical Islamic elements -- more than two years ago.
Not surprisingly, Stürzenberger and his supporters view the situation rather differently than do Herrmann and the powers that be. In a blog post on PI, Stürzenberger describes his predicament as "as an incomprehensible warping of reality: those who want to protect democracy and fundamental law before an anti-constitutional ideology [Islam] are now being pilloried. Does anyone question that political correctness has completely infested Germany?"
Indeed, the crackdown on Freedom Bavaria and PI appears to be part of a year-long smear campaign led by a triple alliance of German multicultural elites, sundry Muslim groups and members of the mainstream media, who have been relentless in their efforts to discredit the so-called counter-jihad movement (also known as the "Islamophobes") in Germany.
Opinion polls show that growing numbers of ordinary German citizens are worried about the consequences of decades of multicultural policies that have encouraged mass immigration from Muslim countries.
Germans are especially concerned about the refusal of millions of Muslim immigrants to integrate into German society, as well as the emergence of a parallel legal system in Germany based on Islamic Sharia law.
In an effort to reverse this rising tide of negative public opinion, the guardians of German multiculturalism have been working overtime to regain the initiative by accusing the critics of Islam of engaging in hate speech to try to intimidate the so-called "new right" into silence.
The media campaign has been led by two financially troubled newspapers, the Berliner Zeitung and its sister publication, the Frankfurter Rundschau, as well as Der Spiegel, a left-leaning magazine based in Hamburg that has long served as the mouthpiece for German multiculturalism.
In a January 4, 2012 interview with the Berliner Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau, Manfred Murck, the director of the Hamburg branch of German domestic intelligence, said the owners of anti-Islam blogs "have a disturbed relationship to the democratic constitutional state" and often promote "infringements of human rights protected under our constitution."
Murck continued: "I also see evidence of criminal relevance, such as making threats and public invitations to crime." He said criticism of Muslims and Islam constitutes "an attack against the freedom of religion, which is protected by Article 4 of the Basic Law."
The Berliner Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau interview was conducted by Steven Geyer and Jörg Schindler, two propagandists masquerading as journalists who have been leading an ongoing effort to shut down PI, which over the years has grown into a major information resource for Germans concerned about the spread of Islam in their country.
PI's motto reads "Against the Mainstream, Pro-American, Pro-Israel, Against the Islamization of Europe, For Fundamental Laws and Human Rights" – which encapsulates everything German multiculturalists abhor.
The Berliner Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau, for example, have fomented some hysteria by publishing dozens of agitprop articles, some by Mely Kiyak, a first-generation German whose parents were Turkish-Kurdish immigrants. Kiyak, who calls herself a "political pioneer," portrays all critics of Islam as hate-mongers.
One article, entitled, "Politically Incorrect: Vulgar, Uninhibited, Racist," says that, "the Internet portal 'Politically Incorrect' is part of an international network of Islam haters and Muslim stalkers. This is confirmed by research conducted by the Frankfurter Rundschau."
Another article, "PI News: Prototype of the New Right," links criticism of Islam with anti-Semitism: "The 'New Right' has been growing for ten years and has momentum. The blog 'Politically Incorrect' shows what the movement looks like. The director of the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, Wolfgang Benz, sees parallels to anti-Semitism." Open expressions of anti-Semitism are illegal in post-war Germany; the inference here is that those who criticize Islam are guilty of committing a crime. (Never mind that PI is decidedly pro-Israel.)
Other Berliner Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau articles are entitled: "Politically Incorrect: Where the Internet Stinks;" "Rightwing Populists: United in their Hatred of Muslims," and "Politically Correct Hatred."
A frenzied article, "Politically Incorrect: Inside the Network of Islam Haters," asserts: "PI is far more than a harmless website. It is rather a highly conspiratorial organization that works to demonize an entire faith community. It plays a vital role in an international network of those who hate Islam. It provides racists and glorifiers of violence who share the world view of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik with a forum."
Spiegel magazine, sifting through a stock of more than 10,000 private emails stolen from PI, published an article, "Politically Incorrect Closely Knit to Far Right Scene," in which it asserted that the people behind PI are undemocratic and pose a threat to the German constitutional order.
Yet another article, "Germany's Anti-Muslim Scene: Authorities Debate Surveillance of Islamophobes," asserts that right-wing populism is a new form of extremism: "There are concerns that the anti-Muslim scene is becoming increasingly dangerous. In essence, the question is whether the hatred of Muslims is enough to endanger freedom of religion and international understanding, or whether it is a radical but legitimate expression of opinion by individual authors within the limits of the constitution."
Spiegel magazine has worked hard to portray all critics of Islam as belonging to the "far right" even though opinion polls overwhelmingly show that voters from across the political spectrum are concerned about the spread of Islam in Germany.
In Munich, the so-called progressive newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has been leading the propaganda war against Stürzenberger and those who are concerned about the mega-mosque.
In a commentary entitled "The Dangerous Poison of Hate," Bernd Kastner, a twenty-something apologist for Islam in Germany, writes: "At last! German intelligence has declared the enemy of Islam, Michael Stürzenberger, to be an extremist. Since late March, the Freedom Bavaria Party and the Munich chapter of Politically Incorrect are being monitored, so they are formally unconstitutional. Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann accuses them of denying the human dignity of Muslims. With their agitation they threaten the peaceful coexistence of people of different backgrounds and religions."
Kastner, displaying his anti-democratic leanings, continues: "Should there be a referendum about the mega-mosque, it is feared that the mosque, which is so far only an idea, will become a campaign object. That will bring the extremists not only tens of thousands of signatures and addresses of sympathizers, but also votes in the upcoming elections."
According to PI: "Our work of information is not oriented against Muslims, but against the political ideology of Islam. Muslims are its first victims, most of all women. We want to liberate them from the shackles of this ideology so that they can integrate in our free democratic society…One thing is clear: We will maintain our way consistently and continue unswervingly."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.