Salafist mosque contests its closure before France’s State Council

The Yvelines prefecture has accused the Ecquevilly Mosque of calling for “discrimination and hate and violence.” The association in charge of running the mosque responded by denouncing amalgamations between salafism and jihadism. On November 2, the prefecture had called for its closing under the State of Emergency. There are no known ties to foreign networks, but the prefecture opposed the discourse of its imam, Yassine B.

On Monday, the Ecquevilly Mosque contested its closure before the State Council. The prefecture had accused the mosque of being “an influential place of worship in the salafist movement…calling for discrimination and hate and violence against women, Jews, and Christians,” adding that the imam “legitimated in a sermon,” the 2015 Paris attacks. The prefecture justified its closure by stating that “younger and younger individuals have begun to frequent salafist mosques,” which pose a security risk.

The mosque’s lawyers spoke before the State Council, stating: “We don’t see how the fight against terrorism would attempt to silence all forms of Islam in France for the sole reason that they don’t adhere to all the pillars of a Republican Islam.”

The imam denounced what he saw as a “State trap,” and contested any accusations that he had encouraged terrorism. The administrative court confirmed the mosque’s closing, as well as the prefecture’s accusations against the imam, whose statements regarding Islam and women were said to, “incite hate, discrimination, and disrespect for the laws of the Republic.”

The discourse “has already had negative effects on social cohesion in Ecquevilly for reasons of religious pressure, notably felt by women, who are ‘insufficiently’ veiled or not veiled at all. [This pressure] is in turn absorbed by children,” the magistrate stated.

The Interior Ministry representative described an “insidious message, which instilled idea in the community that, in the end, the [Paris] attacks were tolerable.”

In its retort, the association stated that the mosque adheres to quietist and apolitical salafism, rather than “revolutionary salafism,” which constitutes the “jihadist movement.” The association said it has “always condemned” terrorism and violence. It insisted that “none” of its worshipers, to its knowledge, were on the terror watch list or under house arrest.

Islamist “mole” exposed at German domestic intelligence agency

Arrest on November 16

A 51-year-old man working at the German domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) – has been exposed as an alleged sympathiser of the jihadist cause.

He was arrested on November 16, after he had been placed under surveillance by his own employer for the preceding weeks.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html )) The 51-year-old had been part of the agency’s office tasked with monitoring the country’s Islamist scene.

His employer appears to have been alerted to the man’s questionable role when he offered advice to a fellow jihadist during an online chat session. The agent noted that he could supply access to the Verfassungsschutz buildings in Cologne in order to facilitate an attack on “unbelievers”. He asserted that he was “ready to do anything to help the brothers”. What he did not know was that his counterpart during the chat was himself working for the Verfassungsschutz.((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html ))

Actions “in the name of Allah”

No clear picture of the man and his potential motivations has emerged so far. Following his arrest, he claimed that he had sought to use his position at the agency to warn his brothers in faith of any potential investigations against them. His actions were, according to him, in accordance with Allah’s will.

Yet while he had mentioned internal matters from the Verfassungsschutz during the abovementioned online conversation, he does not appear to have leaked further information on the agency’s ongoing investigations.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html )) The man nevertheless presented himself as part of a large-scale plan to “infiltrate” the intelligence office.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html ))

Mental health questions

More than two weeks after the arrest, however, there are ongoing questions as to whether the man is a ‘Salafist’ or ‘jihadist’ or in fact an unstable individual. While in custody, the man has made a range of “mystical allusions” that appear to raise questions about his mental health.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html ))

He claims to have converted to Islam following a “spontaneous inspiration” in 2014 while on the phone with an unidentifiable “Mohamed” from Austria. Neither his wife nor his four children were aware of his alleged conversion.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html )) The man’s work as an actor in homosexual pornographic movies also at least casts doubt on his hard-line Islamist credentials.((http://www.dw.com/de/islamisten-pornos-und-der-verfassungsschutz-das-r%C3%A4tsel-um-maulwurf-m/a-36596498 ))

Keeping apart investigators and investigated

This cases comes as a renewed blow to Germany’s much-criticised domestic intelligence agency. In recent years, the Verfassungsschutz has been rocked by successive revelations about its role in the series of murders and attacks by the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a far-right terrorist cell.

There have been worrisome questions about the agency’s knowledge and thus de facto complicity in the NSU’s activities: the German neo-Nazi scene is densely populated by the agency’s informants – so densely, in fact, that the Constitutional Court rejected a motion to ban the far-right NPD party in 2005 because it noted that it could not distinguish between party leadership and Verfassungsschutz personnel.

In the present case, the Verfassungsschutz once again appears to be rather too close to the people it seeks to monitor. Indeed, on facebook the suspect not only expressed regret about the recent arrest of Abu Walaa – reported by Euro-Islam – but was also friends not just with a number of Islamists but also with several functionaries from a far-right political party.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html ))

Renewed criticism of the Verfassungsschutz

The agency’s president, Hans-Georg Maaßen, stressed that all necessary security preconditions had been taken when the man was hired. Nevertheless, the fact that an individual who joined the Verfassungsschutz as a lateral entrant in April 2016 – after he had lost his previous job as a bank clerk((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html )) – could gain access to sensitive information so quickly raises considerable questions about the agency’s professionalism.

German parliamentarians also criticised Maassen and his office for failing to notify them immediately: news of the case broke only nearly two weeks after the arrest through revelations by Der Spiegel magazine.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/geheimdienst-islamist-schleicht-sich-bei-verfassungsschutz-ein-a-1123676.html ))

The threat of “infiltration”

The call for consequences has been swift: parliamentarians demanded, among other things, that the security checks of all Verfassungsschutz employees be conducted more often. Others called for a more dramatic restructuring of the agency itself.

Beyond these immediate reactions, however, what is likely to stick in the public’s perception is the threat of “infiltration”. As Euro-Islam reported, a recent survey found that 40 per cent of Germans believe that the country and its institutions are already “infiltrated” by Islam.

The media reaction to the suspected mole, at the Verfassungsschutz has most likely not dampened this anxiety. It was noteworthy, for instance, how many news outlets quickly focused on the man’s “conversion”—an act that, after all, seems to have occurred on the phone to an obscure contact in Austria if it occurred at all. ((See e.g. https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html, https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article159849913/Islamist-beim-Verfassungsschutz-enttarnt.html )) Conversion, as the ultimate act of infiltration, thus serves as the measuring stick for dangerousness.

As European authorities target Salafism, the word needs parsing

What exactly is Salafism? In continental Europe, the word is now used as a catchall for extreme and violent interpretations of Islam. This week for example, authorities in the German state of Hesse raided five premises including a mosque; it was the latest move in a crackdown on ultra-militant forms of Islam all over Germany which began last week. “Extremist propaganda is the foundation for Islamic radicalisation and ultimately for violence,” said the interior minister of Hesse, Peter Beuth, by way of explaining the latest raids. “The Salafist ideology is a force not to be underestimated,” he added.

On November 15th, German federal authorities banned what they described as a Salafi organisation known as “True Religion” or “Read!” whose notional purpose was to distribute copies of the Koran. On the same day, police swept through 200 offices and other buildings across the country. Ralf Jäger, interior minister of the populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), reportedly gave this reason for the ban: “Every fifth Salafist who has travelled out from NRW under the aegis of so-called Islamic State in order to join a terror cell had previous contact with ‘Read!’”

In France, too, the word Salafi or Salafist is often used as a generic term for forms of Islam which are too extreme for any government policy to parley with or accommodate. Manuel Valls, the Socialist prime minister, has reported with alarm that the Salafis, although a tiny minority among French Muslims, may be winning an ideological war in France because their voice is louder and more efficiently disseminated than any other. François Fillon, a centre-right politician who is likely to make the run-off in next year’s presidential election, is a strong advocate of cracking down both on Salafism and on the groups linked to the global Muslim Brotherhood.

In the very loosest of senses, all Muslims are Salafi. The word literally describes those who emulate and revere both the prophet Muhammad and the earliest generations of Muslims, the first three generations in particular. There is no Muslim who does not do that. But in practice the word Salafist is most often used to describe a purist, back-to-basics form of Islam that emerged on the Arabian peninsula in the 19th century.

But even Saudi Salafism, despite appearances, is no monolith, according to H.A. Hellyer, a British scholar who studies Muslim communities across the world. Several different tendencies can be detected among the kingdom’s religious scholars, who underpin the monarchy.

In Egypt, too, the word Salafi is used as though it had a simple meaning, but again that is misleading, according to Mr Hellyer. On the face of things, the Egyptian Salafis are represented by a political party, Al Nour, which emerged as a powerful player after the 2011 uprising, and favours extreme conservatism in matters of dress, gender roles and personal behaviour. This is contrasted with the more tactical and pragmatic form of Islamism represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged in Egypt in the early 20th century and now wields influence through ideological allies all over the world, including Europe.

Here is another source of confusion: in the broad sense, the Brotherhood too is partially Salafi in inspiration. It shares the ideal of going back to the very first generations of Muslims; that was part of the thinking of Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s founder.

Do the politicians of France and Germany, who use the word Salafi/Salafist as though it were virtually a synonym for terrorist, need to know all this? Yes they do, because the safety of Europe’s streets is at stake. In Britain, for example, there are Salafi mosques whose preachers are theologically conservative but are far from terrorists; and there have been terrorists who have had nothing to do with the mainstream of Salafism. It’s important to understand that of the various forms of Salafism described, there is one, the unreconstructed kind, which can (though does not always) morph into terrorism. Labels can be a helpful pointer through a maze of complexity, but in the end the labyrinth has to be negotiated carefully.

Valls wants to “combat the discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood” in France

Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that “we must combat the discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood in our country, we must combat Salafist groups in our neighborhoods.”

“We need to help Muslims who don’t support being confused by such discourse. Not only with jihadists, not only with terrorists, but also with fundamentalism, conservatism, radicalism,” he stated.

When asked how he would combat such groups, Valls responded: “By the law, by the police, by intelligence services. Many things are done. A religion cannot impose its discourse in our neighborhoods.”

The denunciation of Salafism, even if it is primarily quietest and hostile toward jihadism, is very common, especially as the ultra-Orthodox movement influenced by Saudi Wahhabism has gained ground in mosques, present in over 100 (out of 2,300) today.

The Muslim Brotherhood is less common today at the highest state level. The group is at once reformist as well as being conservative. It is engaged in both the political and social sectors, as well as being represented by the Union of Muslim Organizations of France (UOIF) and embodied by Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Hassan el-Banna.

The liberal imam of Bordeaux Tareq Oubrou is also a member. With over 250 associations, the UOIF is one of the principal Islamic organizations in France. It oversees the first Muslim school under contract by the state (Averroès, in Lille), which has recently been accused of fostering an “Islamist” ideology among its students. The UOIF also organizes the largest annual gathering of Muslims in the West, which boasts over 100,000 attendees annually, and whose guest list is monitored by the authorities.

In Germany, dealing with potential Jihad fighters

After a conference the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, announced that radical Islamists should be hindered to travel to war zones in order to join Jihad. This should be achieved by substituting the original ID card with a document which does not allow for exit. Indirectly, the ministry is also addressing the issue of Jihad fighters returning from Iraq/Syria and becoming a potential threat for the German society in general. Rolf Jäger, chairperson of the Interior Minister’s Conference, emphasized on the double strategy of repression and prevention needed in order to stop radicalization. In relation to this Heiko Maaß, Federal Minister of Justice, suggested to tighten law regulations concerning two significant points: Firstly, people should be held accountable when funding terrorism and secondly, people should be held accountable for already leaving Germany in the attempt to pursue an act of violence as well as receive any training in this regard (there is no legal punishment for both within the given legal framework). Members of the Christian Democratic Union criticized this proposal as one not going far enough and thereby inadequate. The Union argued that the proposal should also include the mere promotion of a terrorist organization such as ISIS/ISIL. Meanwhile, the interior ministry of Bavaria has deported the Salafist Erhan A. to Turkey, after his endorsement of ISIS/ISIL, its ideological framework as well as the beheadings.

Investigations against Salafists in Bremen

March 30, 2014

 

The district attorney of the City State of Bremen had initiated investigations against four Salafists for “diffusing heavy criminal offenses against the State”. These four men are said to have left Germany towards Syria to fight for Salafist groups. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Bremen assesses religious and cultural associations near the mosque Masjidu-I-Furqan as extremists. They are suspected to recruit and mobilize young pupils for the Jihad in Syria. Some of these associations offer social activities such as sports to attract young Muslims. Many of them are underage.

According to the security authorities, approximately 300 German Islamists including converts have left Germany to fight in Syria. They are expected to commit violence such as the beheading of prisoners in front of the camera. These cruel rituals are interpreted as tests of courage and a means to radicalize the young men.

 

Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/salafisten-aus-deutschland-im-dschihad-in-syrien-a-961514.html

Salafist group calls for boycott of French local elections

March 20, 2014

 

The organization Anâ-Muslim (“I am Muslim”) is calling for a boycott of France’s local elections via its website, social network and brochures.

Anâ-Muslim is a nonprofit organization recognized by the French state. Its members share their vision of Islam on the organization’s website, on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and on YouTube. A few days ago, Anâ-Muslim called on Muslims to boycott French municipal elections, which will take place on March 23 and 30. They explain this decision by using various religious arguments and by saying that for a Muslim person, “voting is an act of submission … while abstaining is an act of resistance.”

On its website, the organization explains that this campaign is aimed at Muslim people between 18 and 40 years old. They argue that refusing to participate in French politics is a way to “preserve their faith”: “Voting means recognizing the power of men on earth and giving them absolutely sovereignty to create their own laws that have nothing to do with Islam.” The organization’s goal, as described in their mission statement, is to “teach Islam to Muslims … because Muslims are the only ones who can control their destiny … and contribute to Islam’s resurgence so that humanity may be saved”.

 

“This is the first time that a Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons” 

There have been similar calls for boycotts in the past, but these came from informal Islamist groups. This is the first time that a state-recognized Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons.

The Anâ-Muslim group and their website have existed for about three years. It became a state-recognized organization a little over a year ago. There are about 100 members and sympathizers who have signed up online. The organization is mainly targeted towards Muslim intellectuals and students.

The founders can be divided into two categories: some of them are close to jihadist movements but who believe Muslims living in France don’t have to wage jihad. Others are former jihadists who, today, believe that promoting their vision through legal means is the best solution. People from these two categories created Anâ-Muslim with the idea that they would work out in the open, and follow the law.

Anâ-Muslim is mostly active in the Paris region, but also in some other cities like Marseille and Lyon. Their main activities are preaching and distributing pamphlets in the street. They don’t want anyone to associate them with groups like Forsane-Alizza [an organization that the French authorities shut down in 2012 after members called for armed combat.]

To put it simply, the organization’s members are people who are close to the jihadist Salafist ideology, but without the war aspect. This involves, among other things, refusing the “Taghout”, meaning any leaders who do not respect the precepts of Islam.

 

Contacted by FRANCE 24, Dalil Boubaker, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, shared his thoughts on the organization:

“Anâ-Muslim is an epiphenomenon. It has no real weight. Most Muslims in France – the vast majority of whom are involved in public and political life – won’t pay any attention to their call for a boycott. We live in a democracy, and it’s obvious that not participating in elections would be counterproductive for the Muslim community. In fact, the call for a boycott goes against the precepts of Islam. When the Prophet Mohammad died, his companions gathered and voted for his successor Abu Bakr, the first caliph. The Great Mosque of Paris and the French Council of Muslim Faith encourages all Muslims in France to take part in the local elections, and all elections.”

 

Source: http://observers.france24.com/content/20140320-salafist-organisation-boycott-french-elections

German Jihadists in Syria

February 21, 2014

 

According to security authorities, a number of 270 German Jihadists have travelled to Syria to participate at the civil war. US and European intelligence estimate 2000 fighters from Europe in the Arab country. Among them, Abu Talha Al-Almani, aka Deso Dogg, aka Dennis Cuspert, a German rapper who converted to Islam a few years ago. Almani has been seen in syria, singing a cappella Jihadi songs (Nasheed) for the cause of the Jihad. A music video was released by the German Islamist site Tawhid, after Al Almani was reported to be injured in combat.

Dennis Cuspert was born  in 1975 in Berlin. A public „Gangsta Rapper“ a changed his appearance and became an Islamist preacher by the name of Abu Maleeq. He is said to be connected to Mohamed Mahmoud, aka Abu Usama al-Gharib, an Austrian of Egyptian origin. Mahmoud is said to be the founder of the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), a jihadist propaganda platform.  Mahmoud was sentenced to four years in prison for by an Austrian court for terrorism offenses.

He reportedly left Austria for Berlin shortly after his release in September 2011. Mahmoud and Cuspert left to the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia and founded the Salafist association Millatu Ibrahim, which was banned by the Minister of Interior in 2012. The clashes between Salafist activists and police shocked the German authorities. The riots broke out within the context of an “anti-Muhammad” cartoon campaign, initiated by the extreme right-wing Pro NRW. Al- Almani calls Muslims to leave Germany and to join the Jihad in Syria. A full interview with the German Islamist is available (see link).

With regard to the mobilization of Jihadi action in Syria, Al-Almani calls Muslims with German citizenship to ask for German unemployment benefits and donations to support the cause of the Jihadi and their companions in the State of Iraq and al-Sham.

 

Al Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/deso-dogg-germany-salafists-syria-jihad.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=284febf6ef-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-284febf6ef-93074789#

Interview with Al-Almani English subtitles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm5CQOUrhYo#t=71

Office for the Protection of the Constitution: http://verfassungsschutz-bw.de/,Lde/Startseite/Aktuelles/Neue+Internetpraesenz+von+deutschen+Jihadisten+in+Syrien+zeigt+die+Nutzung+aktueller+Moeglichkeiten+von+Propaganda+und+Kommunikation+auf

Hesse plans to establish an early warning system for detection of radicalization

December 3, 2013

 

The State of Hesse aims to establish an early warning system to detect the radicalization of young Muslim men living in Germany. Minister of Interior Boris Rhein expressed his concern about the number of young Muslim men leaving Germany to join the civil war in Syria. German security authorities have registered 230 individuals flying out to join the “Jihad journey”.

According to security authorities, most men belong to the Salafi scene or have been addressed by Salafist activists. Most of the volunteers are said to be below the age of 25.

That said, the Minister of Hesse proposes a new helpline to advise friends and relatives of young radicalized men. The “Jihad early warning system” has been applied in several prevention projects related to radical right-wing extremism.

 

Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/hessen-plant-fruehwarnsystem-gegen-dschihad-trips-nach-syrien-a-936868.html

Abu Qatada will be able to preach while incarcerated at Jordanian prison

Abu Qatada will be able to preach while incarcerated, prison officials said at the Muwaqqar facility where the firebrand preacher is currently being held. Inmates are referred to as guests, “like we’re talking about a hotel where we provide them with services,” say staff at Jordan’s smartest prison, the Muwaqqar Rehabilitation and Correctional Center. “It is better for him here than in Britain” said Abd al Hamid Gamil AlKafawin, one of the prison officials. “Here he is treated just like any other guest, and has no restrictions imposed on him.” He is also allowed visits by his family three times a week; on Tuesday his mother and 8 of his siblings visited Abu Qatada, though they could only communicate by telephone from behind a glass screen.

 

Contrary to initial reports that he would be kept in solitary confinement, Abu Qatada is sharing a cell with 15 inmates. His cell, furnished by 12 bunk beds lining the walls, can accommodate up to 26. Many of the 950 inmates, including his current cellmates, are doing time for the same crime Abu Qatada is charged with; crimes against state security. If sentenced, Abu Qatada would remain here and be able to teach inmates, say prison officials. Although the position of sheikh is currently filled, the Salafist preacher is bound to find a keen following. Such a position would be paid; teaching is but one of several occupations available to inmates. Others include carpentry and agriculture.

 

The Adaleh Center for Human Rights, which the British government has appointed to oversee his wellbeing, visited the facility twice last year.