German Muslims have established a self-styled biker gang — modelled on the Hells Angels — aimed at protecting fellow Muslims from the "ever-growing hatred of Islam," according to Die Welt.
The emergence of the group, which aspires to open chapters in cities and towns across Germany, has alarmed German authorities, who have warned against the growing threat of vigilantism in the country.
Muslim vigilantes enforcing Islamic justice have become increasingly common in Germany. The government's inability or unwillingness to stop them has led to the rise of anti-Muslim counter-vigilantes. Germany's BfV intelligence agency, in its latest annual report, warned that an escalating action-reaction cycle could result in open warfare on German streets.
The gang, which calls itself "Germanys Muslims" (the possessive apostrophe is not used in German), is based in Mönchengladbach and now has offshoots in Münster and Stuttgart. It was founded by Marcel Kunst, a German convert to Islam who also uses the name Mahmud Salam.
The gang's uniform consists of a black leather jacket with a logo depicting a one-fingered salute, the "Finger of Tawheed," which represents belief in the oneness of Allah. The logo also includes the number 1438, which represents the current year in the Muslim calendar, as well as the number 713, which stands for GM (Germanys Muslims), the seventh and thirteenth letters of the alphabet.
Police say they do not know how many people belong to the gang, which was established in May. The group's Facebook page, which has more than a thousand followers, describes itself as a "citizens' initiative" which advocates for the "peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany." A mission statement dated June 15 reads:
"Our organization has been founded for only one purpose: To protect and support our brothers and sisters from the ever-growing hatred of Islam!!! To all non-Muslims who read this post, pay attention. The following could change your perception of us!!! We respect every religion and, as dictated by the Quran, do not force our faith on anyone!!! We do not sympathize with the Islamic State and are against compulsion in faith and in marriage!!! ISLAM DOES NOT RECOGNIZE HONOR KILLINGS AS IS OFTEN SUPPOSED!!! The raised finger in our logo is not from the so-called Islamic State. In our faith it symbolizes that there is only one God!!! We have summarized 40 commandments from the Quran for you....IMPORTANT. Whoever gets into a fight on the road or elsewhere (except for self-defense) will be expelled from our group without further discussion!!!"
Although "Germanys Muslims" claims to disavow violence, police say that several of its senior members are known to be Salafists, whose aim is to replace liberal democracy in Germany with Sharia law. One of its members, for instance, was detained as a security precaution during the Tour de France, which passed through Mönchengladbach on July 2.
German police describe the group's founder, Kunst, as an "Islamist who moves in Salafist circles." In a video that is no longer available, Kunst called on the group's members to protect mosques and Muslim women.
In a July 27 interview with Die Welt, Isabella Hannen, spokeswoman for the Mönchengladbach Police Department, revealed that police met with Kunst on July 5 and warned him that "vigilantism will not be tolerated." They also stressed that the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force (Gewaltmonopol) is the exclusive domain of the state. On July 28, "Germanys Muslims" issued a statement saying that the group respects the authority of the state. "So far, we have no evidence that they are a danger, but we are keeping our eyes on them," Hannen said.
An illustrative photo of an "outlaw" motorcycle gang. (Image source: Roy Lister/Wikimedia Commons)
In its annual report released on July 4, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), said that Salafism is the "fastest-growing Islamic movement in Germany." The report revealed that the number of Salafists in Germany jumped to 9,700 in 2016, up from 8,350 in 2015; 7,000 in 2014; 5,500 in 2013; 4,500 in 2012; and 3,800 in 2011. According to the BfV:
"Salafists are seeking to impose a theocracy based on their interpretation of the Sharia and in which the liberal democratic order no longer applies. Political and jihadist Salafists share the same basic ideology. They differ primarily in the means by which they wish to achieve their objectives.... Nevertheless, it should be noted that political Salafism has an ambivalent relationship to violence... it does not always prohibit religiously-sanctioned violence."
A previous BfV report stated:
"The absolutist nature of Salafism contradicts significant parts of the German constitutional order. Specifically, Salafism rejects the democratic principles of separation of state and religion, popular sovereignty, religious and sexual self-determination, gender equality and the fundamental right to physical integrity."
The BfV also warned of the danger of civil unrest:
"The potential threat posed by Salafist violence remains dangerously high. Salafist violence could create an additional dynamic through interactions with extremist groups from other 'hostile' ideological camps, as already occurred in individual cases in the past."
The BfV was referring to an alliance between hooligans from rival football clubs who temporarily set aside their mutual hatred for each other in order to unite against a common enemy: radical Salafists. At one point, the grouping, known as Hooligans versus Salafists (HoGeSa), had more than 40,000 followers on its Facebook page before it was shut down by Facebook censors.
According to some commentators, the rise of HoGeSa was fueled in part by a growing sense of frustration that the German government is not doing enough to curb the spread of Islam in the country. Others said the group was incited by the Salafists' increasingly provocative support for replacing Germany's democratic order with Islamic law.
In Wuppertal, for example, seven self-appointed "Sharia Police" sparked public outrage when they distributed yellow leaflets which established a "Sharia-controlled zone" in the Elberfeld district of the city. The vigilantes urged both Muslim and non-Muslim passersby to attend mosques and to refrain from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, music, pornography and prostitution.
In November 2016, however, the Wuppertal District Court ruled that the Islamists did not break German law and were simply exercising their right to free speech. The ruling, which effectively legitimized Sharia law in Germany, was one of a growing number of instances in which German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.
In Berlin, a hundred Islamists are now openly enforcing Sharia law on city streets, according to local police who are investigating a recent string of violent assaults in the German capital. The self-appointed morality police involve Salafists from Chechnya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim region in Russia. The vigilantes are using threats of violence to discourage Chechen migrants from integrating into German society; they are also promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in Germany. German authorities appear unable to stop them.
Bild, the largest-circulation newspaper in Germany, recently warned that the country was "capitulating to Islamic law." In a special "Sharia Report" it stated:
"The 2013 coalition agreement between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats promised: 'We want to strengthen the state's legal monopoly. We will not tolerate illegal parallel justice.' But nothing has been done."
In a commentary, Franz Solms-Laubach, Bild's parliamentary correspondent, wrote:
"Even if we still refuse to believe it: Parts of Germany are ruled by Islamic law! Polygamy, child marriages, Sharia judges — for far too long the German rule of law has not been enforced. Many politicians dreamed of multiculturalism.... This is not a question of folklore or foreign customs and traditions. It is a question of law and order. If the rule of law fails to establish its authority and demand respect for itself, then it can immediately declare its bankruptcy."
Meanwhile, German authorities have been fighting an uphill battle against an extremely violent "rocker" gang, the "Osmanen Germania" — "Ottoman Germania" — which consists mostly of Turkish Germans and, like the "Germanys Muslims" gang, is modeled on the Hells Angels.
The "Ottoman Germania" group, which claims to be a boxing club concerned about the welfare of young people, was founded after Hells Angels decided to allow non-Turkish migrants to join. Police say "Ottoman Germania" is an effort by former Turkish German members of the Hells Angels to protect their market share of organized crime.
The "Ottoman Germania" group is one of the fastest-growing gangs in Germany. Within months of its founding in April 2015, the group had established dozens of chapters across the country. Today the group, which profits from prostitution, extortion and the trafficking of weapons and drugs, operates across Europe, despite repeated police raids.
German authorities believe the "Ottoman Germania" is close to the Turkish government, which uses the group to fight Turkey's internal political struggles in Germany. Police say the gang also cooperates with Germany's Salafists.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.