The German state of Lower Saxony has published a practical guide to extremist Islam to help citizens identify tell-tale signs of Muslims who are becoming radicalized.
Security officials say the objective of the document is to mitigate the threat of home-grown terrorist attacks by educating Germans about radical Islam and encouraging them to refer suspected Islamic extremists to the authorities.
The move reflects mounting concern in Germany over the growing assertiveness of Salafist Muslims, who openly state that they want to establish Islamic Sharia law in the country and across Europe.
The 54-page document, "Radicalization Processes in the Context of Islamic Extremism and Terrorism," which provides countless details about the Islamist scene in Germany, paints a worrisome picture of the threat of radical Islam there.
The document states: "The threat posed by Islamic terrorist organizations continues apace, and the risk of radicalization and recruitment by Islamists continues unabated. Young Muslims are being courted by Islamist propaganda. The threat level in Western countries has escalated to a higher level. A particular risk increasingly stems from self-radicalized individuals or small groups without formal networks of connections. This poses special problems for law enforcement. The long-term strategic objective of these Islamist organizations is to destabilize democratically and liberally oriented states and to influence political decision-making."
The document continues: "Islamist terrorism poses a significant threat to the internal security of Germany. National security authorities have identified at least 235 Islamists with German citizenship who have sought or received paramilitary training in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. It is assumed that more than half of these individuals have returned to Germany. Of these, approximately ten are currently in prison. There is a very real danger that these individuals have returned to Germany with the aim of committing acts of terrorism."
According to the report, German security agencies estimate that approximately 1,140 individuals living in Germany pose a high risk of becoming Islamic terrorists. The document also states that up to 100,000 native Germans have converted to Islam in recent years, and that "intelligence analysis has found that converts are especially susceptible to radicalization…Security officials believe that converts comprise between five to ten percent of the Salafists."
The document provides a frank assessment of political Islam. It describes Islamism as "a political ideology that disputes the constitutional order of the Federal Republic of Germany. Unlike secular extremist ideologies like Communism or National Socialism, which are not based on religious ideas, Islamism is based on the religion of Islam. At the core, Islamists advocate a politicized form of Islam. Religion for them is not only an individual matter of faith, but Islam is seen as a comprehensive political-religious societal concept. Islamist organizations and movements, despite their differences, all seek to create societies based on the legal system of Sharia. This law divides people according to their beliefs, their gender and their relationship to the Islamic state in different legal categories. It rejects the idea of democratically legitimized governance, particularly by non-Muslims over Muslims, because only Allah is recognized as a sovereign. Thus Islamism, with its strict commitment to Sharia, is directed against the Constitution and the rights and freedoms guaranteed therein, equality and respect for human rights. The Islamic idea of a theocratic state and social system is also opposed to the principle of popular sovereignty and the separation of powers."
The document also includes a list of 26 "possible characteristics of radicalization processes" to help German citizens identify potential radicalization.
Some of the items on the list include: "critical questions about Islam are viewed as an attack on the addressed person or group; questioning certain views on the interpretation of Islam is interpreted as a betrayal of the group; increasingly stringent interpretation of religion; rejection or aggression against anything "Western;" Islam is the solution, the so-called Western world is seen as the cause for all the problems; dualistic worldview, applying a strict friend-foe schema; repeating Islamist slogans; religious strictness is required of the entire society; Muslims with different orientation (that is, Shiites) are called infidels."
Other items on the list include: "visiting radical mosques or Islamic or preachers; participating in religious seminaries with radical preachers; solidifying contacts with other radical extremists and individuals; visiting Islamist websites; watching films that promote violent jihad; increasing willingness to aggressively and violently enforce religious or religiously colored political claims on others (possibly by also increasing interest in weapons); potentially criminal activity against property and persons with reference to the inferiority of the so-called infidels and/or committed to harm the alleged enemies of Islam; implementation of survival training, combat training or similar paramilitary activities; frequent and/or lengthy trips to countries with majority Muslim populations, particularly language classes, visits to paramilitary training camps; preoccupation with life after death or martyrdom; changes in financial position (no verifiable income or sudden debt)."
Not surprisingly, the document has been greeted with outrage by Muslims, who have accused the government of Lower Saxony of "scare-mongering." The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) has described it as "absurd" and "outrageous."
Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann has rejected the criticism; he says he has no intention of withdrawing the document, which is part of a concerted strategy by German officials to step up their monitoring of Salafist groups after a series of violent clashes with police.
In May, for instance, more than 500 Salafists attacked German police with bottles, clubs, stones and other weapons in the city of Bonn, to protest cartoons they said were "offensive."
The clashes erupted when around 30 supporters of a conservative political party, PRO NRW, which is opposed to the further spread of Islam in Germany, participated in a campaign rally ahead of regional elections in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
Following the fights -- in which 29 police officers were injured, two of them seriously -- a video surfaced on the Internet by a known terrorist, the German-born Yassin Chouka, a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
In the German-language video, Chouka calls for members of PRO NRW and German media to be killed. He also urges the Salafists to move away from street confrontations, where the risk of being arrested is great, and instead to target PRO NRW members in their homes and workplaces.
In nation-wide raids on June 14, over 1,000 German police searched about 70 Salafist homes, apartments, mosques and meeting places in seven of Germany's 16 states in search of evidence that would enable the German government to outlaw some of the dozens of Islamist groups operating in the country.
Announcing the crackdown, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he had banned a Salafist group called Millatu Ibrahim, based in the western city of Solingen. "The Millatu Ibrahim group works against our constitutional order," he said, "and against understanding between peoples." Among other things, Millatu Ibrahim teaches its followers to reject German law and to follow Islamic Sharia law, and that "the unbelievers are the enemy."
Friedrich also said that the raids in Bavaria, Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, among other locations, may unearth evidence that would allow outlawing two other Salafist groups, the DawaFFM and "Die Wahre Religion" [DRW, "The True Religion"].
In a June 8 interview with the newspaper Die Welt, Interior Minister Friedrich said: "Radical Salafism is like a hard drug. All of those who succumb to her become violent."
Friedrich also said the recent Salafist attacks on German police show "that the threshold for violence has decreased in an alarming way. There can be only one answer: The government must make it clear with all the force of the law that our democracy is fortified. Salafists fight the liberal-democratic legal system and in its place want to introduce their radical ideology in Germany. But we will not let that happen. We will defend our freedom and our security with all our might."
Soeren Kern is a Distinguished 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.