BERLIN — A German organization that calls itself the True Religion and that is known for distributing German-language copies of the Quran was outlawed on Tuesday, after the authorities accused it of recruiting jihadists to fight in Iraq and Syria.
Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, said the government had banned the True Religion organization, which is also known as Read (as in the instruction to read the Quran), because it acted as a “collecting pool” for would-be Islamist fighters.
Starting on Tuesday morning, officers raided 190 premises in more than half of Germany’s 16 states. Materials were secured, but there were no detentions, Mr. de Maizière said.
“The organization brings Islamic jihadists together under the pretext of the harmless distribution of the Quran,” Mr. de Maizière told reporters in Berlin, stressing that the authorities were acting against the group because of its work to foster violence, not because of its faith. “A systematic curtailment of our rule of law has nothing to do with the alleged freedom of religion,” he said.
The move comes after months of surveillance of the organization, whose bushy-bearded members have become a common sight in pedestrian shopping areas in major German cities. Mr. de Maizière said that 140 of the group’s supporters are known to have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.
“The translations of the Quran are being distributed along with messages of hatred and unconstitutional ideologies,” Mr. de Maizière said. “Teenagers are being radicalized with conspiracy theories.”
The move comes a week after the authorities arrested five men who were accused of aiding the Islamic State in Germany by recruiting members and providing financial and logistical help.
The True Religion is the sixth Islamist organization to be banned in Germany since 2012, under an effort to ensure domestic security and to prevent radicalized young people from leaving the country to fight for extremists abroad.
Germany has been gripped by a wave of small-scale terrorist attacks this year, including three that were claimed by the Islamic State: the knifing of a policeman in February, an ax attack by a young refugee, and a suicide bombing, both in July. (The only deaths in those assaults were those of the attackers.)
Most of the nearly one million migrants and refugees who arrived in Germany last year were Muslims. Security officials have been concerned that those who become frustrated or disillusioned at the difficulty of starting a new life in Europe could provide fertile ground for radical Islamists seeking to recruit members.
The campaign to hand out the Qurans to passers-by was the idea of Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, a Palestinian who preaches a conservative brand of Islam known as Salafism. German security officials said he was not in Germany at the time of the raids. Mr. de Maizière declined to comment on Mr. Abou-Nagie’s possible whereabouts.
Mr. Abou-Nagie, who has lived in Germany for more than 30 years, has been on the radar of German security officials since 2005, when he set up a website that officials say spreads extremist propaganda. An attempt to prosecute Mr. Abou-Nagie in 2012 on charges of incitement of religious hatred failed.
Even as they are carrying out a sweeping effort to prevent radical Muslims from committing terrorist acts, the German authorities are also working to stop violence by far-right extremists. There was a 42 percent increase in the number of violent acts committed by the far right in 2015, according to the country’s domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they had charged eight men from the eastern state of Saxony with forming a far-right terrorist organization known as the Freital Group, after the city near Dresden where many of the group’s attacks were carried out. The charges were brought by the state court in Dresden last Wednesday, the prosecutors said.
“The aim of the organization was to carry out explosive attacks on shelters for asylum seekers, as well as homes, offices and automobiles of political dissidents,” the prosecutors said in a statement. “Through these actions, the suspects wanted to create an atmosphere of fear and repression.”
Others from the group are already facing charges, including attempted murder, carrying out an explosion and vandalism, over a series of attacks that began in late July 2015 and continued through November of that year. Those assaults involved lobbing explosives at the offices of the Left Party and at a refugee shelter in Freital.
(via NY Times)