Hundreds of German police launched a large scale operation on about 190 apartments, offices and mosques in 10 federal states early on Tuesday morning. The raids are part of the government ban of the radical Islamist group The True Religion, or DWR, which “rejects democracy and glorifies murder and terrorism,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
The government accused the group of trying to recruit fighters for Islamic State, or ISIS. The interior ministry said there was no indication it was planning attacks itself.
The Salafist group is known for distributing free copies of the Quran with the slogan “Read!” on the cover in pedestrian areas across the country. “A translation of the Quran in hand, hate speech and anti-constitutional ideologies are disseminated and young people are radicalized with conspiracy theories,” said Mr. de Maizière.
According to the minister, over 140 members of the group have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight for the jihadist terror group ISIS after having been radicalized by the DWR. He also pointed out that the government ban was not directed at the promotion or dissemination of the Islamic faith or Quran translations. The Islamist group took to Twitter this morning, declaring: “Germany has banned the Quran.”
The group’s leader Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, who has called for worldwide Sharia law to be introduced to replace traditional justice systems, was not in Germany during the raids. Investigators suspect the 52-year-old to be in Malaysia, where the group is said to have been planning further initiatives.
According to Spiegel Online, Mr. Abou-Nagie published numerous videos online that are now being used as evidence for the group’s “aggressive-combative attitude against the liberal and democratic fundamental order.” In one of these videos, he is quoted as saying: “Democracy is against Islam, and the opposite of Islam.”
The coordinated police operation began at 6:30 a.m. in several western German states and Berlin. In the state of Hesse there were almost 65 raids – including 15 in Frankfurt alone. There were also 35 raids in both North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria.
In Berlin, almost 20 properties were searched, in Lower Saxony more than 20, in Baden-Württemberg 15, in Schleswig-Holstein, Rhineland-Palatinate and in Hamburg about five each and in Bremen one. Search warrants were also issued against a mosque association in Baden-Württemberg and Hamburg.
“The message to the radical Islamist scene is clear: we do not tolerate fanatics who try to radicalize young people and send them to jihad,” said Peter Beuth, the state interior minister for Hesse.
“By banning this organization, a major source of radicalization has been eradicated nationwide. Those who spread hate messages can’t hide behind freedom of religion, the interior ministry has underlined this with the ban today,” he added.
Daniel Tost is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org.