Muslim Hate in Germany
Hostility Between Muslims and German Nationalists Rattles a Former Capital
June 5, 2012 1:05 pm
By MELISSA EDDY / The New York Times
BONN, Germany -- The people who live in the trim row houses with well-tended gardens that line the streets of this spa town along the Rhine like to boast of their city's tolerance, which dates to its time as the capital of West Germany and home to dozens of foreign embassies.
"We used to be a city of diplomats," said Christa Menden, who owns a flower shop.
But since 1999, when the central government moved to Berlin, the capital of the reunited Germany, the diplomats have gone. Now there is a growing population of Muslim immigrant families, many of whom have moved into the neighborhood of Bad Godesberg, filling many of the houses left empty by the shift in capitals.
Today Bonn, once tranquil, is a volatile cocktail of social tensions between its Muslim newcomers, who include some German converts as well as immigrants from Arab-speaking countries, with some hard-core elements, and a far-right nationalist group that is mounting a growing campaign against them.
Last month, about 200 Muslims, many from other cities, gathered to defend the honor of the Prophet Muhammad after the far-right Pro-NRW party (for North Rhine-Westphalia) threatened to display caricatures of the Prophet during an anti-Muslim rally in front of the King Fahd Academy, an Islamic school built in 1995 by Saudi Arabia's government.
After the authorities tried unsuccessfully to win a court injunction preventing the display, they parked police vans to block the view of the offending cartoons. But after one of the 30 or so rightists climbed on the shoulders of another to flash the cartoon at the Muslims, who had just finished praying, a shower of rocks and shards from smashed flower pots flew at the police in response.
"They just exploded," said Robin Fassbender, a prosecutor in Bonn, who has begun an investigation that could yield attempted murder charges against a 25-year-old Muslim protester who sneaked through the police barrier and stabbed three officers, wounding two seriously.
By the time the rioting stopped on May 6, the police said, they had rounded up 109 Muslim protesters.
"They viewed the police as an organ of the state that wanted to insult Muslims by failing to prevent the caricatures from being shown," Mr. Fassbender said. "That is a different dimension of violence than these officers are used to. They are trained to regularly take stones and broken bottles, but not to be specifically attacked like this."
Days earlier the same far-right group held a similar protest in another city, Solingen, where the cartoons of Muhammad were also paraded. The police there detained 32 Muslim protesters after they clashed with officers, throwing stones and charging the barriers separating them from the far-right demonstrators.
The violence, which was preceded by a nationwide campaign by Salafists to hand out Korans in cities, has refocused the authorities' attention on what they call a threat from the conservative Salafist movement.
German's interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, has vowed to take stronger action against the Salafists. While they account for a tiny fraction of the estimated 4.3 million Muslims living in Germany, he noted, nearly all Islamic extremists known to German security officials, including several charismatic preachers, have links to the movement. They have proved adept at using social media and Internet forums to attract young followers in Bonn and surrounding areas.
The King Fahd Academy, where the clashes with the police took place, stands incongruously in Bad Godesberg, its gold-topped minaret rising against the deep green bluffs of the Drachenfels crag, where legend has it that Siegfried slew the dragon.
The school was intended to offer a traditional Arabic curriculum to children of diplomats stationed in Bonn. The city authorities tried to close the school in 2003 after it emerged that it taught an extreme form of Islam that encouraged a violent rejection of the Western humanistic values enshrined in the German Constitution.
A compromise was reached, and the school has become a magnet for Muslim families. Several hundred move to Bonn each year, and Muslims now make up about 10 percent of the city's population. Many are wealthy Arabs attracted to Bonn's outstanding medical facilities.
The Bonn police spokesman, Harry Kolbe, said, however, that the influx had also brought young Muslims with no jobs or diplomas, who clashed with their wealthier peers.
Ms. Menden, whose flower shop sits on a corner opposite the King Fahd Academy, said she was traumatized by watching what had begun as a peaceful protest deteriorate into a street riot beneath her window. At first, Ms. Menden said, young men, many with long beards and traditional Arabic clothing, greeted her politely. She was impressed by how they had laid out their rugs in the center of the street and bent in unison to pray.
But at some point, she said, she noticed that several young men were stuffing their pockets with the small slate chips that lined the garden along her exterior wall. "I went over to fuss at them, and one turned and threw the stones back in my face," she said. Her husband pulled her inside to safety.
She said it still upset her to know that the stones from her garden were thrown at the police by the very people who moments earlier had greeted her politely. "I do not feel hate, I do not feel fear," Ms. Menden said. "I feel disappointment."
Other residents blame the city's own education system for the troubles. Classes are taught in Arabic at several elementary schools, part of an effort at integration begun in 2003, when several hundred students had to leave the King Fahd Academy.
"Years of work on integration were unraveled in that demonstration," said Annette Schwolen-Flümann, district mayor of Bad Godesberg.
Less than an hour after the disturbance, residents swept away the dirt and debris from the overturned flowerpots. Many were Muslims who had sought to keep the peace that Saturday afternoon and were themselves struggling to come to terms with the events.
A Muslim woman who gave her name only as Ms. Elbay because, she said, she did not feel comfortable being identified in media outlets, said she has lived behind the parking lot where the rightist group held its demonstration for the past 11 years without any trouble.
"It is difficult for us as Muslims," Ms. Elbay said. "Our image is always being destroyed. We do our best to try to live a normal life; we send our children to integrated play groups, we have German friends, and then these people come and destroy it," she said, referring to the Muslim demonstrators who had turned violent.
Ms. Menden insisted that now she struggled to fight back anger whenever a Muslim neighbor greeted her.
Another neighbor, Hans-Peter Weisz, who has lived on the street for 30 years, said his children were frightened that protests would recur there. "You can understand how a hate against foreigners can grow," Mr. Weisz said, "It's not good."
German Cartoon Riots: Clubs, Bottles and Stones
by Soeren Kern
May 8, 2012
Rather than cracking down on the Muslim extremists, however, the German authorities have sought to silence the peaceful critics of multicultural policies that allow the Salafists openly to preach violence and hate.
In an explosion of violence that reflects the growing assertiveness of Salafists in Germany, on May 5th more than 500 radical Muslims attacked German police with bottles clubs, stones and other weapons in the city of Bonn, to protest cartoons they said were "offensive."
Rather than cracking down on the Muslim extremists, however, German authorities have sought to silence the peaceful critics of multicultural policies that allow the Salafists -- who say they are committed to imposing Islamic Sharia law throughout Europe -- openly to preach violence and hate.
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). Some of those participating in the rally, which was held near the Saudi-run King Fahd Academy in the Mehlem district of Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, had been waving banners depicting the Islamic Prophet Mohammad (see photo here), to protest the Islamization of Germany.
The rally swiftly disintegrated into violence (photos here and here) when hundreds of angry Salafists, who are opposed to any depiction of their prophet, began attacking the police, whose job it was to keep the two groups apart.
In the final tally of the melee, 29 police officers were injured, two with serious stab wounds, and more than 100 Salafists were arrested, although most were later released. A 25-year-old German protester of Turkish origin, suspected of having stabbed the two police officers, remained in custody on suspicion of attempted homicide.
According to Bonn's police chief, Ursula Brohl-Sowa, "This was an explosion of violence such as we have not witnessed in a long time."
Germany's intelligence and security agencies say they are closely monitoring the Salafists, who are increasingly viewed as posing a threat to German security.
Salafism, a branch of radical Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, seeks to establish an Islamic empire (Caliphate) across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe -- and eventually the entire world. The Caliphate would be governed exclusively by Islamic Sharia law, which would apply both to Muslims and to non-Muslims. Salafists also believe, among other disconcerting doctrines, that democracies -- governments made by men as opposed to theirs, which was made by the almighty -- legitimately deserve to be destroyed.
According to German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, "Salafism is currently the most dynamic Islamist movement in Germany as well as internationally. Its fanatic followers represent a particular danger for Germany's security. The Salafists provide the ideological foundation for those who then turn violent."
The interior minister of the German state of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, said, "The violence of the Salafists in Bonn has once again shown what is behind the mask of supposed religiosity: nothing but brute force." He also said that the violence was "a direct challenge to liberal democracy as a whole."
The interior minister of Bavaria, Joachim Hermann, said that: "We cannot tolerate violent retribution and revenge. We apply the rule of law, not Islamic vigilante justice." He added that Salafists should be "brought to justice and severely punished," and that "We have to monitor the Salafist scene even more. And we have to be more diligent in cracking down on hate and violence. We cannot allow that terrorists and violent criminals are free to operate under our noses. We need to take action against Salafism and its intolerant, fanatical ideology with all legal means."
Despite these and many other pronouncements, Salafists still have free reign in Germany: Salafist preachers are known regularly to preach hatred against the West in the mosques and prayer centers that are proliferating across the country.
In recent weeks, Salafists have been engaged in an unprecedented nationwide campaign to distribute 25 million copies of the Koran, translated into the German language, with the goal of placing one Koran in every home in Germany, free of charge.
The mass proselytization campaign -- called Project "READ!" -- is being organized by dozens of Islamic Salafist groups located in cities and towns throughout Germany, as well as in Austria and Switzerland.
According to the German newspaper Die Welt, the Salafists have launched a "frontal assault" against people of other faiths and "unbelievers." Die Welt has reported that German authorities view the Koran project, which fundamentalists are using a recruiting tool, as a "most worrisome" campaign for radical Islam. Security analysts say the campaign is also a public-relations gimmick intended to persuade Germans that the Salafists are transparent and "citizen friendly."
A spokesperson for the Berlin branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) told Die Welt that "the objective of this campaign is to help bring those who are interested into contact with the Salafist scene to influence them in the context of extremist political ideologies."
In response to Project "READ!" PRO-NRW launched a cartoon contest under the motto "Freedom Instead of Islam." The contest, which ended on April 25, generated dozens of submissions. The winning entry was a cartoon depicting a Christian church surrounded by six minarets (Muslim prayer towers) with the caption: "I think the church in Germany has integrated itself very well." Some of the other submissions can be found at a German free-speech website called Politically Incorrect.
As Muslims have said they feel offended, and as Europe prides itself on being multicultural, left wing politicians have converted the "Freedom Instead of Islam" cartoon contest into protest against free speech. After releasing all but two of the Salafists responsible for the brawl on May 5th, the Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Ralf Jäger, cast blame on the democratic -- and peaceful -- PRO NRW. He ordered police to prevent PRO NRW from displaying anti-Islam any more cartoons during the final phase of the state's regional election campaign, to be held on May 13th.
Jäger, who is a member of the center-left Social Democrats, characterized PRO NRW as a "far- right extremist group" and said the group's cartoons had been a "deliberate provocation" that had triggered the attacks by the Salafists.
The guardians of German multiculturalism, enabled by the German mainstream media, invariably label PRO NRW "far-right" – presumably to dismiss its views rather than examine them. Ironically, most of the PRO NRW group's members, including its senior leadership, hail from the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and could never -- even with the most extreme exertion -- ever be considered extremists.
PRO NRW's members have, in all likelihood, just been frustrated by the refusal of the mainstream center-right parties to push back against the steady Islamization of Germany; they describe themselves as a citizen's movement (Bürgerbewegung), possibly akin to the Tea Party movement in the United States. The group's members say they love their country and are upset about the direction in which politicians are taking it.
On May 6th, administrative courts in the towns of Arnsberg and Minden ruled that Jäger's ban on PRO NRW freedom of speech was unconstitutional, and authorized the group to continue its campaign activities.
PRO NRW, in a statement, declared that the favorable court decisions were "predictable, because the law and our Constitution have not changed overnight. The only amazing thing is that an Interior Minister who has sworn to uphold the Constitution keeps enacting unlawful decrees."
PRO NRW also reminded politicians that they have "the responsibility to provide the police with sufficient human, financial and material resources" for them to do their job. Spokesmen for the organization said, "It is unacceptable that, as was the case in Bonn, too few police officers were exposed to an aggressive mob. Where were the water cannons or the dogs? Unfortunately, 29 police injured officers have paid a bitter price. They have our sincere sympathy. To Mr. Jäger and other responsible politicians, we have only one thing to say: Resign immediately."
Free speech lives on in Germany… for now, at least.
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
German Officials Alarmed by Ex-Rapper’s New Message: Jihad
By SOUAD MEKHENNET
Published: August 31, 2011
The New York Times
BERLIN — The man German security officials call a major security risk looks like a figure from a rap video, especially with the tattoos on his hands. The right one says “STR8,” and the left one “Thug.”
“This is from the days when I lived the life of an unbeliever,” said the man, Denis Mamadou Cuspert, as he clenched his fists and looked at the tattoos. “Allah will erase them from me one day.”
Mr. Cuspert, once a popular rapper in Germany, today is one of the best-known singers of nasheeds, or Islamic devotional music, in German. Security officials say, though, that he is an influential figure who incites violence and unrest through inflammatory videos and fiery speeches that praise terrorists and attack the West.
German authorities say people like him inspired the fatal shootings of two American airmen at the Frankfurt airport in March. The 21-year-old man accused of the killings, Arid Uka, whose trial began in Frankfurt on Wednesday, has said he opened fire on a busload of American service members after seeing a video that claimed to show a Muslim woman being raped by men in United States military uniforms. American officials have said the video — which Mr. Cuspert acknowledged posting on his Facebook page, and which Mr. Uka copied — was staged by militants.
Mr. Uka said he was listening on his iPod to nasheeds calling for opposition against occupation forces and the West as he traveled to the airport just before the shootings. “It made me really angry,” Mr. Uka told the judge on Wednesday, referring to the songs’ lyrics. During a tearful confession, he said that Islam had given him strength after a period of depression, but that he now realized that “I have damaged my faith.”
German terrorism investigators see Mr. Cuspert, 35, as a threat who provokes young people angered by what they see as a Western campaign against Islam; some even likened him to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born preacher now in hiding in Yemen who is also accused of promoting violence through speeches and videos.
“After establishing rapport through music, he introduced radical ideology to an audience already receptive to him,” said Raphael F. Perl, who runs the antiterrorism unit for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In an interview at a mosque here, Mr. Cuspert denied any direct connection to Mr. Uka, though he said he supported his actions. “The brother hasn’t killed civilians,” he said. “He has killed soldiers who had been on their way to kill Muslims.”
That is similar to the message in videos posted on YouTube and jihadi Web sites that have made Mr. Cuspert popular among Al Qaeda supporters in Europe and elsewhere. As evidence of his reach, a man who goes by the name Abu Bilal in the tribal areas in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region said of Mr. Cuspert: “The brother’s voice has reached the hearts of many people here, too.”
Mr. Cuspert gives speeches all over Germany, and young people are drawn to elements of his personal story, including his membership in Berlin street gangs — he said he used to be a “real bad boy” — and the notion that he finally found the “right way.”
Mr. Cuspert says that Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Koran, permits self-defense. “My duty is to use my voice for telling people the truth, and the truth is, jihad is a duty,” he said.
Security officials say that young people who are clicking on his videos do not realize that what they are listening to has been inspired by a radical jihadist theology based on the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam.
At the end of June, Mr. Cuspert recorded a nasheed that praised Al Qaeda’s late leader, Osama bin Laden. “Your name flows in our blood,” he sings.
“I have sworn allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, emir of the Taliban,” he said in the interview, smiling. “He is one of the greatest men.”
In his speeches, Mr. Cuspert has expressed outrage over United States drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Yemen and Somalia, and has said that his biggest wish right now is the death of President Obama, who he said was an enemy of Islam.
Suspecting that Mr. Cuspert was planning to join his friends in Pakistan, German authorities in July demanded that he surrender his passport. “I told them that I had lost it,” he said.
So far, the authorities say, they have not had enough evidence to arrest him for his speeches, but they are trying to put him behind bars for offenses they say he committed during his former life as a rapper.
On Aug. 18, Mr. Cuspert was tried here on charges of possessing illegal weapons. Prosecutors said that he held a gun in a video and that the police found rounds of ammunition during a search of his apartment. German security officials said they sought to jail Mr. Cuspert and stop his “video propaganda for jihad.” The trial judge convicted Mr. Cuspert, but spared him a prison sentence, ordering him to pay a fine of 1,800 euros, about $2,600.
Before he took his new name, Abou Maleeq, Mr. Cuspert had another life. He was born and reared in Berlin by his German mother. His father, who was from Ghana, left the family when Mr. Cuspert was a baby.
When conflicts increased at home with his stepfather, a former American Army soldier and strict disciplinarian, Mr. Cuspert was sent to a home for difficult children. After five years, he returned home. “I grew up with racism,” Mr. Cuspert said. “Though my mother is German, some teachers back then would call me ‘Negro’ and treat all Muslim kids bad.”
His argument with American foreign policy grew in 1990 in the months leading up to the first Persian Gulf war, and he joined demonstrations in Berlin. “We marched, shouted and burned the American flag,” he said, smiling.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq became a source for new conflicts with his stepfather. He joined youth gangs, Mr. Cuspert said, because he was in search of an identity; he found it in the streets of Berlin with the children of Arab and Turkish immigrants.
He said that from an early age he trained himself in Thai boxing, tae kwon do and Brazilian jiujitsu. Social workers in Germany sent him to a special farm in Namibia that sought to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents.
In 1995, he found a new outlet for his anger: as the rapper Deso Dogg. He said, “My songs were about the time in prison, racism, war.”
His music career soared. He went on tour with rappers like DMX and worked on the soundtrack for a German film. But after surviving a car accident, he started questioning his lifestyle and turned to Islam for answers. In 2010, he ended his career as a rapper and turned his focus to fighting the United States and the West.
The message on his cellphone’s voice mail system makes no secret about his ultimate aim in life. “The martyrdom is the most beautiful,” he says in his recording. “Allah is the greatest.”
A Normal Life That Vanished
in a Terrorist Attack
By SOUAD MEKHENNET
The New York Times
Published: March 8, 2011
Germany applies anti-Nazi laws in crackdown on Salafi
police yesterday targeted two Salafi Islamic groups in what officials
say is an investigation into efforts to overthrow the government.
By Robert Marquand, Staff writer / December 15, 2010
Christian Science Monitor
German authorities hardened a crackdown on Islamic groups yesterday, raiding homes and schools that reportedly belong to adherents of fundamentalist Salafi Islam.
German officials said the preemptive raids, conducted under German anti-Nazi laws of association, were aimed at uncovering unconstitutional or separatist acts and not part of an international terror hunt.
The raids targeted the Islamic Cultural Center of Bremen, on the North Sea, along with a group calling itself Invitation to Paradise in two small northwest German cities. Invitation to Paradise's leader has called for sharia, or Islamic law, to prevail one day but has specifically opposed using violence to impose it.
While some experts say police overreacted in conducting the raids, German officials have come under great pressure from local media and citizen groups to respond to some Muslim organizations that appear to resist joining mainstream German society.
“These groups are a problem for integration, even maybe for radicalization, though not necessarily for violent jihad. They are very orthodox and like to be separate but are not preaching but usually condemning violence,” says Alexander Ritzmann, a former Berlin member of parliament now with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. “The problem is that some jihadis in Germany from before identified themselves as Salafi.”
Germany has been on high alert for possible terror attacks since mid-November. The Reichstag parliament building was partially closed to tourists for two weeks following a phone call from a disaffected South Asian jihadist who warned that Islamic militant groups were planning to attack high-profile targets in the nation.
Authorities said yesterday's raids were unrelated to the phone warning.
The German Interior Ministry said it was investigating efforts by radicals to overthrow the government on theological Islamic grounds. In a statement issued Tuesday, the ministry said that, “For a well-fortified democracy, it is necessary and demanded, without waiting for the jihad to occur in the form of armed struggle, to take action against anti-constitutional organizations.”
A leader of Invitation to Paradise, Pierre Vogel, has been a lightening rod in Germany for some time now. He's a German convert to Islam who appears on numerous TV shows to defend the concept of sharia.
Mr. Ritzmann, the former German parliamentarian, argues that the zeal of the German police should be more in line with the goals of German intelligence, which may be uneasy with high-profile raids that are designed to placate political pressure.
“The police may make some of the popular leaders into martyrs if the state is now going after them," he says. "It means inside the mosque that everything the Islamic leaders say to them about not being accepted in German society appears to be true.”
After a car bomb in Stockholm carried out by a disaffected Islamist from Iraq named Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, several German politicians called for tighter visa restrictions. After yesterday’s raids, other officials called for a quick and total ban on radical Islamic groups. German police say the raids were unrelated to the Stockholm incident.
Study finds young, devout Muslims in Germany more prone to violence
Immigration | 06.06.2010
A study conducted by the German authorities has found that the more devout young Muslims become, the more prone to violence they get. The study says the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught.
The willingness to commit violent crimes grows among young Muslim immigrants in Germany the more religious they become, according to a joint survey by the German interior ministry and the Institute for Criminology Research of Lower Saxony (KFN).
By comparison, the study found that just the opposite was true for Christian immigrants. The willingness to commit violent crimes, such as armed robbery or assault and battery, among young Catholics and Protestants decreases with religious fervor, the KFN study revealed.
The study said the reason for this difference had to do with the very different image of masculinity. Muslim devotion promotes the acceptance of macho behavior, said Christian Pfeiffer, the director of the Lower Saxony research institute and one of the authors of the study.
Pfeiffer said that in their religion, and in the family at home, young Muslim immigrants are frequently exposed to a more conservative world view and lay claim to a variety of male privileges.
The problem with imams
In an effort to explain their results, the study's authors draw on the findings of Rauf Ceylan, a religious education expert and himself of Turkish extraction, who points to the number of non-German imams, or Muslim priests, preaching and teaching in Germany.
Ceylan maintains that these foreign imams are generally only in Germany temporarily, speak no German and have little contact with German culture. Most of them, he says, call for a return to a more conservative Islam and retreat into the practitioner's original ethnic culture. For them, male dominance is normal and their teachings demand the same from Muslim youths, Ceylan says.
Christian Pfeiffer, from the KFN, also points out that the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has called for the study's results to be put on the agenda of the next Islam conference.
Different levels of integration
The KFN study interviewed a total of 45,000 14-16 year-olds in 61 cities across Germany between 2007 and 2008. Of these, 10,000 had an immigrant background.
It found that the best adjusted and most integrated immigrants came from non-religious families. More than 41 percent of these were looking to get a high school diploma, nearly 63 percent had German friends and 66 percent viewed themselves as German.
The figures among young Muslims were strikingly different: only 16 percent were pursuing a high school diploma, 28 percent had German friends and about 22 percent considered themselves German.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa/AP/AFP)
The Radical Muslims of Germany
Dr. Sami Alabraa
January 31, 2009
"Jews are the enemy of Allah," declared Ismael Gharaballi during a service in a mosque in Bielefeld, Germany. "This is not only my belief, but also Allah's conviction," the Palestinian imam and Hamas activist declared, waving his Koran in the air. The congregation of about 200 thundered, "Allahu Akbar!"
Then Gharaballi turned to another page in the Koran and read,
"… and kill them [he explained this to mean unbelievers, especially the Jews] wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you" (Surah 2, verse 191). "What are you waiting for?" he cried. "Allah Himself is telling us kill them. No peace can be made with the Jews."
After the prayers, I approached Gharaballi in the cafeteria of the mosque and asked him if he was serious about what he had preached. "Of course, I am. This is not any book. This is the word of Allah." Then I asked if he would kill a Jew here in Germany. He answered: "Yes, especially those Israelis who are occupying Arab land." I reminded him that this would be murder and for that he would land up behind bars. Ismael retorted angrily: "I don't care. The Koran is our law and constitution and anything else is just rubbish." Referring to Hitler, Ismael told me: "The man was a hero, almost a Muslim. I'm one of his fans."
Gharaballi is not unique in Germany's 3 million-strong Muslim community. Ibrahim el-Zayat, the head of an extremist Munich-based organization called The Islamic Community of Germany, told a meeting of fellow Muslims last month: "It is still premature to strike against the Jews and infidels in this country. However, at the lecture at a community center in Neukoeln, Berlin, which I attended, but where no media reporters were allowed access, he went on to assert: "But sooner or later we will strike against the enemies of Allah and Islam. We have to wait. Many Germans are converting to Islam, especially friends from the NPD [a neo-Nazi party]." When I asked a German reporter to verify this by calling el-Zayat, the latter denied having ever said such a thing.
El-Zayat was born in 1968 in Marburg, Germany, to an Egyptian imam and a German mother. He owns a construction company and receives huge sums of money from the Saudis to build mosques in Germany and in other European countries. He is an aggressive Muslim fundamentalist and has connections to various Islamists and terrorist organizations across the world. He is currently being prosecuted in Germany for supporting radical organizations.
El-Zayat is typical of most Muslim activists in Germany. In their schools and community centers, Muslim organizations incite hatred and violence against Jews and Christians. In public, however, and before the media, they deny preaching violence. El-Zayat, Gharaballi and the majority of radical Islamist imams, and officials of Muslim organizations receive big honorariums from the Saudis.
According to a study by Bielefeld University, over 30% of the Muslims living in Germany are radicalized. They reject the German Constitution and hope to establish Sharia Islamic law.
Many German politicians, in particular in the Green Party, often attribute radicalism among Muslims to social problems and lack of integration in German society. For all these problems they blame the German side. Former foreign minister Joschka Fischer stated, in an interview with German radio station WDR earlier this year that Muslims should be left alone to believe and act the way they please. "Other religions are not more liberal than Islam."
The German Home Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has met with heads of Muslim organizations and Islam experts several times over the last two years. I attended all these meetings. The heads of Muslim umbrella organizations tell the German government that they and their members accept the German Constitution. Back in their communities they preach hatred and violence. In mid-April 2008, the German police raided the properties of a dozen Muslim extremists and arrested nine of them. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The German media and the public appear to be wary of antagonizing Muslim radicals. Very few media reproduced the Mohammad cartoons published in Denmark and they downplayed the recent anti-Islam Fitna film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
Radical Islam inculcates in impressionable young minds verses from the Koran that are incompatible with modern values and human rights, such as inciting hatred towards Jews and Christians. Dalal, a 15-year-old girl who attends a Muslim school in Ulm, was proud to tell me that her teacher told her not to greet non-Muslims. It is haram (forbidden), she said. The radical Muslims also emphasize those passages that discriminate against women and incite violence against those who practice freedom of religion and speech.
Christianity and Judaism also have passages in their holy scripts that are incompatible with human rights. But most Christians and Jews simply ignore these passages, consider them archaic, and instead apply more humane and rational ones. Most Muslims ignore the more liberal passages that do exist in the Koran.
The majority of Muslims in Germany are peaceful people. Radical Muslims are a minority. But this minority dominates. They are in key positions in the community and control mosques and organizations. There is no hate-crime law in Germany. The German government should enact such a law, like the one against Holocaust denial, making it an offense to incite to hatred and the violation of human rights.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. Before moving to Germany he taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also contributes to the Jerusalem Post.
The trio reportedly aimed to set off massive blasts targeting U.S. military personnel and civilians at bases and airports.
Christian Retzlaff and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 6, 2007
BERLIN -- --Three people
allegedly trained in Pakistan by an Al Qaeda-linked group have been arrested on
suspicion of plotting massive car bomb attacks on U.S. troops and other
Americans near U.S. military bases and German airports, authorities said
After months of surveillance during which German police secretly replaced a stockpile of bomb chemicals with a weaker mixture, a SWAT team raided a vacation home in a wooded village in central Germany on Tuesday and arrested the trio, two of whom were German converts to Islam. One of the suspects grabbed an officer's gun, shooting him in the hand and suffering a cut on the head during the struggle.
Searches in five German states
involved 600 officers, an unprecedented number for an anti-terrorism operation
led by federal police here, on the same day that Danish police seized bomb
materials in Copenhagen and charged two men of Pakistani and Afghan origin with
plotting an attack under the direction of unnamed Al Qaeda leaders. Authorities
said they knew of no direct connection between the men arrested in the two
Northern European nations.
The two alleged plots stoked fears that a resurgent Al Qaeda was using hide-outs near the Afghan-Pakistani border to train European-based militants to hit Western targets in Europe, which has become a front line because it is easier to enter than the United States and has a larger, more restive Muslim population.
The trio in Germany allegedly planned simultaneous strikes on three soft targets that may have included discotheques, bars, restaurants or airports frequented by American soldiers and tourists, according to German and U.S. law enforcement officials. Because the confiscated materials could have produced the equivalent of about 1,000 pounds of TNT, the casualty toll could have far exceeded the transport bombings in London that killed 52 people in 2005 or those in Madrid that killed 191 people in 2004, officials said.
The London bombs, in contrast, had only 6 to 10 pounds of explosives, Joerg Ziercke, chief of the federal police, said at a news conference with top law enforcement officials. "In my opinion, a high number of casualties was the main objective; otherwise, this enormous amount of explosives is hard to explain," he said.
The third suspect detained Tuesday in Germany is a Turkish Muslim living in the country. The three allegedly underwent training last year at a terrorist camp in northern Pakistan run by the Islamic Jihad Union, or IJU, an extremist network that broke away from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a longtime Al Qaeda ally, authorities said.
American counter-terrorism officials said they have long been concerned that the IJU and other regional extremist groups around the world have affiliated themselves more closely with Al Qaeda over the last several years. These groups have become far more dangerous and aggressive toward American interests overseas, despite their low public profile, the officials said. Over the last three years, the IJU, also known as the Islamic Jihad Group, has broadened its operational activity to support Al Qaeda's global agenda, a U.S. counter-terrorism official said.
"We have been concerned about the heightened threat from Al Qaeda and affiliated groups such as the IJU, and this particular plot is consistent with that trend of decentralized command and control in many parts of the world," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
German police conducted 41 searches Tuesday and were investigating seven to 10 associates of the jailed suspects. Several of the additional suspects are part of Germanys large, but mostly moderate, Turkish immigrant population. They remain under surveillance, though prosecuting them may be difficult under the terms of Germany's terrorism laws.
The case is stronger against the three in custody because they were allegedly testing mixtures and assembling bomb components at the time of their arrest, German officials said. Surveillance revealed that their primary motivation was a fervent hatred of Americans, whether soldiers or tourists, German and U.S. officials said.
"In the suspects' minds, they were from days to a couple of weeks away from an attack," said another law enforcement official who asked to remain anonymous. "The targets weren't that set, but they wanted to hit soft targets around military bases where there are large populations of Americans. They wanted to have coordinated attacks -- the police assessment is three separate attacks, probably with car bombs."
Although officials did not reveal links between the suspects in Germany and Denmark, both cases feature stockpiles of bomb-making materials, and suspected links to Pakistan and Al Qaeda-related figures there. The detainees in Germany tried to maintain secrecy by communicating through the Internet and, like those arrested in Denmark, received orders or external communications from the network in Pakistan, officials said.
"It's remarkable that on the one hand terrorism works with an international network, but on the other hand it remains in these strictly separated cells," said Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German Interior minister. "We don't have any hints that there is a connection to what happened in Denmark yesterday."
Danish and German police communicated with each other and U.S. counterparts about the raids, which came a week before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, a period believed to be of heightened risk. Investigators said the fugitive leaders of Al Qaeda have been emboldened by their ability to operate in Pakistan and set their sights on new targets in Europe after overseeing half a dozen plots against Britain.
In an ominous development, Al Qaeda appears to be recruiting amid the multiethnic mix of Muslims in Northern Europe as well as from the predominantly Pakistani immigrant enclaves of Britain, where militants have formed cells on their own and then traveled to Pakistan for training and direction. The suspects here were apparently undeterred by the fact that German and U.S. authorities had issued several alerts this year warning about an increased risk of attacks on American targets.
German investigators have been particularly concerned about the flow of militants back and forth from Germany to Pakistan and Afghanistan during the last year. As fighting in Afghanistan has heated up, the movement of militants from Europe to Iraq has decreased while intensifying toward South Asia, where Al Qaeda's most sophisticated core leadership survives, Western counter-terrorism officials said.
The German investigation began with a suspect identified as Fritz G., a 28-year-old convert who lives in Ulm. He was questioned and released in January after he allegedly conducted reconnaissance of two U.S. military barracks near Hanau, authorities said. He was arrested again Tuesday along with the other two suspects, whose names were not released. Surveillance early this year allegedly revealed that the three were trained by the Islamic Jihad Union in Pakistan in 2006 and claimed allegiance to that group.
Between February and August, one of the suspects went to Hanover and amassed about 1,500 pounds of 35% concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution purchased at a legitimate company under false pretenses, authorities said.
The chemicals, held in 12 containers, were stored in a rented garage in the Black Forest region. As suspicions grew, police pulled off a slick trick used in at least one previous inquiry in Britain. By secretly gaining entry to the garage, then enlisting the help of the company selling the chemical to the suspect, investigators switched it for a much weaker mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide concentrate, officials said. The suspects obtained other bomb-making components, including a detonator from a source that remains unclear, perhaps during their travels to Turkey and Pakistan, officials said. On Aug. 17, one of the suspects rented a three-bedroom vacation apartment in the 900-resident village of Oberschledorn, a popular skiing and hiking locale, where the three met, allegedly to begin making bombs after last Sunday.
Police had planned to wrap up the surveillance and make arrests, probably before Sept. 11, but a coincidence sped things up. While returning Monday from a trip to acquire alleged bomb components, the suspects' vehicle was briefly stopped by traffic police because the high beams were on during the day. Through "undercover methods," police learned that the incident had made the suspects nervous and suspicious, said Ziercke, the federal police chief.
"On September 4 at 1:42 p.m., police learned that the group started to put together a bomb," Ziercke said. "We learned that the group again discussed the police check and judged it as a danger for the operation's success. The group wanted to give up the vacation house and rent a new place. At about 2:30 p.m. the group obviously wanted to leave the building."
A SWAT team swarmed the house, arresting two suspects. The third barricaded himself in a bathroom, jumped from a window and fled over a back fence, police said. When officers converged on him, he managed to wrestle away a gun, wounding an officer in the hand, officials said. The suspect tried to shoot a second officer, but the gun misfired, Ziercke said. The suspect is likely to face additional charges in the incident, officials said.
Because of the hurried denouement, questions and ambiguity persist about the exact targets and details of the plot. Some German and U.S. officials said Ramstein Air Base and Frankfurt International Airport were specific targets, while other officials said the objectives were more likely soft targets such as nearby bars and nightclubs.
The apparent ferocity and dimensions of the alleged plot have erased notions that Germany is not a terrorist target because it stayed out of the war in Iraq, observers said. The threat today is fed by the German military role in Afghanistan, the presence of tens of thousands of Americans at military installations and Al Qaeda's obsession with striking in the heart of the West.
"We're not dismissing the possibility of follow-on plots, and the Germans are tracing leads on this. But this particular plot appears to have been disrupted in rather late stages," the U.S. counter-terrorism official said.
He said German authorities had placed the group of suspects "under a microscope" for a long period, and that they felt confident they had disrupted the particular plot and arrested all major participants.
"But we can't discount the possibility that there were other target sites for these guys," he said. "And we don't discount that there are others out there planning significant attacks" in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Intercepts 'key factor' in German case
A U.S. intelligence tip about messages to and from Pakistan led police to suspects in the alleged car bomb plot, officials say.
By Dirk Laabs, Sebastian Rotella and Josh
Meyer, Special to The Times
September 7, 2007
STUTTGART, GERMANY -- -- A U.S.
intelligence intercept of suspicious communications between Pakistan and
Stuttgart was the initial break that ultimately led to the arrest this week of
three suspected Muslim militants accused of plotting massive car bomb attacks
here against Americans, U.S. and German officials said Thursday.
The communications detected last year referred to apparent terrorist activity, the German and U.S. officials said in interviews. The German officials characterized the communications as specific and alarming. All the officials asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
American authorities passed the lead to German police, who
conducted a painstaking investigation that led to the arrests of the three
suspects, two of whom are German converts to Islam. Police here suspected that
militants were communicating with Pakistan from an Internet cafe, a frequent
strategy to avoid detection, but they did not know which one. So they deployed
surveillance teams at several dozen Internet cafes around the city, officials
The stakeouts paid off when police spotted a 28-year-old convert who was already known as an associate of Islamic militants and has been identified as Fritz Gelowicz.
Arrested this week with the two other suspects, Gelowicz was described Thursday by anti-terrorism officials as the lead figure in a group that learned bomb-making at an Al Qaeda-linked training camp in Pakistan last year. The three are accused of plotting to kill Americans at or near military bases and airports in Germany with the equivalent of more than 1,000 pounds of TNT. The third man jailed is a Turk who has been living in Germany.
On Thursday, police pressed their investigation of at least seven other suspects, including several who are believed to have left the country.
About 300 investigators worked round-the-clock for nine months to monitor the alleged plotters. Using sophisticated eavesdropping equipment of their own, the Germans watched and listened as the suspected cell coalesced and amassed a stash of bomb-making materials.
When they announced the arrests Wednesday, German authorities said they had focused on Gelowicz after he was briefly detained in January on suspicion of scouting a U.S. military barracks. But in reality, Gelowicz and his associates already had been identified as an urgent threat, thanks to the American intercepts last year, according to officials in Germany and the U.S.
"The U.S. counter-terrorism community supported efforts to draw links, to do intercepts and to monitor communications between Pakistan and Germany," a U.S. counter-terrorism official said.
The counter-terrorism official described the initial intercepts as "a key factor" that "helped build the case."
"It led to a very long period of surveillance, and the arrests." The official said the intercepts continued throughout the investigation.
This year, U.S. intelligence agents intercepted a key communication in which militant handlers in Pakistan asked for an update on the plot and pushed the suspects to move faster, German officials said.
At the start of the investigation, American intelligence also helped German police focus on the second convert, Daniel Schneider, a German official said.
U.S. intercepts detected the 22-year-old convert's e-mail communications with Pakistan and guided German police to him through a wireless signal he was pirating, officials said.
The suspects were simultaneously stealthy, brazen and reckless, officials said. The three evidently became aware of the constant surveillance and tried to thwart it, changing trains and dodging tails. They may also have noticed that the German and U.S. governments had issued several warnings during the year about increased terrorism risks, particularly threats posed by militants trained in Pakistan.
But when police this year confronted Schneider, and warned him that they knew what he was up to, he brushed them off, a German anti-terrorism official said. The trio plunged zealously ahead, the official said, apparently eager to die.
The suspects wanted to kill as many Americans as possible in the process, officials said. Probable targets of their alleged plan to build three car bombs were crowded bars, nightclubs, restaurants and airports. They chose Germany because it was their home turf and because of the large population of Americans around military bases.
"It's not just the military, but Americans in general," said a law enforcement official who asked not to be identified. "If they could have wiped out 1,000 American tourists, they would have been happy."
The three were unemployed; the two German natives collected welfare. Authorities said the trio claimed allegiance to the Islamic Jihad Union, an Uzbek group that in 2002 broke off from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an Al Qaeda ally. The IJU ran the Pakistani camp where they trained and oversaw their alleged mission, officials said.
Unlike cases such as the London transportation bombings of 2005, in which the bombers communicated frequently with masterminds in Pakistan during the final weeks, the cell here was largely "self-contained and self-directed," the law enforcement official said. "They seemed to be running their own show."
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