Close to 7,000 radicalized Islamists live in Germany, a third of them prepared to use violence in support of their cause, according to the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. So far, 450 people – half of them German citizens – have left the country to join military units of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, while an estimated 150 have returned from the fighting to live.
There are concerns that such people pose a risk to national security. On November 12, for example, nine men suspected of supporting militant groups in Syria were arrested in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Two were believed to have smuggled fighters from Germany to the Middle East, while the seven others were held on suspicion of robbing churches and schools to help fund Islamic extremism.
Many Germans are frightened of these radicals, and politicians from almost every party are demanding that security laws be tightened.
Their demands are far-reaching: “Terror tourists” should not just be denied permission to leave the country, they should be expelled if they are not German citizens; jihadists with dual citizenships should be stripped of their German citizenship; penal laws should be more severe; support for Islamic fighters should be punishable; making plans to visit a terror camp should be made punishable. What are we to make of all this?
Since September, United Nations Resolution 2178 requires member states “to prevent suspected foreign terrorist fighters from entering or transiting their territories.” But this has already been happening in Germany because anyone seeking to fight in Iraq or Syria is deemed to threaten German security and can be prevented from leaving the country. Germans can have their passports seized while foreigners can lose their residence permits and be expelled.