de-radicalizing Islamists

A German Imam Battles Extremism

Imam Abu Adam by Godron Welters laif
Fighting radicalization with religious knowledge: Imam Abu Adam.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Radical Islamist groups are recruiting impressionable young people in the West to fight in the Middle East. Imam Abu Adam is serving as a moderating influence.

  • Facts


    • More than 600 young German Muslims have moved to Syria to join terrorist groups like IS. Around 190 of them have returned.
    • Polls show 70 percent of Germans are worried radical Islam is gaining ground in their country.
    • De-radicalization projects like Abu Adam’s in Germany tend to lack funding.
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A year ago, he was intent on going to fight alongside jihadists in Syria. Now it has been eight months since the 22-year-old Peter – not his real name – started working with the Leipzig-based imam, Hesham Shashaa, called Abu Adam. The goal is to turn Peter into a peaceful Muslim.

They are an unlikely couple. Abu Adam is tall, loud and strong; he wears a floor-length robe and a red, patterned headscarf.

Peter, by contrast, is lanky and soft-spoken. He wears jeans and a shirt, and has longish hair and blue eyes. Die Zeit visited them twice –once last fall in Leipzig and again at the beginning of February in Spain, where Peter today goes to school.

He is no isolated case. Thousands of young Muslims in Germany have become radicalized in the past years. More than 600 have moved to Syria and joined terrorist groups like the Islamic State, or IS. Around 190 of them have returned – some of them are considered dangerous. Abu Adam wants to prevent Peter from going down that road.

Leipzig, last September: Peter has been living in Abu Adam’s house for two months. They eat together, pray together, and when Abu Adam has an appointment in Germany or abroad, Peter joins him.

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