Germany debates counter-terrorism legislation after the Berlin attack

In the aftermath of the December 19 truck rampage committed by jihadist Anis Amri at a Berlin Christmas market, the German public debate has shifted to the policy and security lessons to be drawn from the attack. Given the Tunisian nationality of the attacker, discussions have focused on immigration law and on administrative counter-terrorism measures.

New security prerogatives proposed

Politicians from the conservative CSU party have been at the forefront of demands for increased competencies for the security services. In a policy paper, the CSU leadership most notably called for an expansion of administrative detention.

For the CSU, being identified by the intelligence services as an individual likely to threaten public safety because of suspected terrorist intentions (i.e. being identified as a Gefährder or ‘endangerer’ in German politico-legal parlance) is to be sufficient for an individual to be placed in administrative detention. Moreover, in the case of foreigners awaiting deportation, the period of custody prior to expulsion is to be prolonged from four days to four weeks.(( ))

Finally, the CSU proposes to curb the usage of the more lenient juvenile penal law for terrorist offenders under the age of 21, to allow counter-terrorism intelligence operations against suspects as young as the age of 14, and to monitor the movements of convicted extremists even after their release from prison through electronic ankle bracelets.(( ))

Effectiveness of policy initiatives

The moment for the CSU’s initiative is opportune: not only has the attack on the Christmas market shaken the German public; the effectiveness of expansive surveillance also appeared to be on ample display when a group of young men from Syria and Libya were caught on camera while trying to set on fire a homeless man sleeping in a Berlin metro station.

The men turned themselves in when crystal-clear CCTV images showing their faces were released to the public. Citing this example as an ostentatious success story, the CSU has demanded a drastic expansion of video surveillance of public spaces in the aftermath of the Christmas market attack.(( ))

A spokesman of the German lawyer’s association, Swen Walentowski observed, however, that “video surveillance does not lead to greater security. There are completely false and exaggerated expectations of video surveillance. […] [A] terrorist would never be deterred by a video camera mounted on some lamp post.”(( ))

Investigative blunders in the run-up to the attack

Walentowski’s comments highlight the fact that the effectiveness of a number of the currently flouted counter-terrorism proposals is questionable. Indeed, in retrospect Anis Amri’s journey through Europe was hardly a smooth one, and the Tunisian did little to conceal his jihadist ambitions. European security services failed to use existing legal provisions that would have allowed them to curb the terrorist threat posed by Amri.

Having left Tunisia after the country’s revolution, Amri lived in Italy for years and had repeated brushes with the law in the country, spending time in Italian jails. Yet although mandatory on paper, the exchange of information between German and Italian security services appears to have been highly deficient, meaning that Amri could start a new life after his arrival in Germany in summer 2015.(( ))

Subsequently, Amri established contacts to the hardline preacher Abu Walaa, dubbed the informal leader of the Islamic State organisation (ISIL) in Germany. The Abu Walaa network attempted to help Amri to travel to Syria. Amri also repeatedly discussed plans for a potential attack with leading figures in the preacher’s group.(( ))

Slipping under the radar

Authorities had collected extensive material on Amri’s activities. Amri’s file at the domestic intelligence agency was updated only a few days before the December 19 attack, and included his aliases, his contact persons and addresses, details of his arrest in Italy, and his activities as a courier in the Abu Walaa network. It noted, too, Amri’s willingness to work as a suicide operator and his interest in building a bomb.(( ))

Abu Walaa himself, as well as some of his most important associates, were arrested in early November 2016. Yet intelligence services ceased their efforts to monitor Amri in summer 2016. Shortly before, an attempt to deport Amri back to Tunisia had failed: although his demand for asylum had been rejected, Tunisia refused to issue travel documents and to readmit Amri.(( ))

To be sure, with numbers of suspected ISIL sympathisers being relatively large, German and European intelligence services will not be able to effectively monitor every single potential attacker. Rule of law and high standards of accountability can also be encumber investigations against terror suspects. The Amri case nevertheless appears to show a series of mishaps on the part of authorities. Tough questions must be asked as to why Amri was allowed to slip under the radar.

Failures to make use of existing legal provisions

When dealing with Amri, intelligence and security services had a range of tools at their disposal which they only used haphazardly. These include cooperation and information exchange with other agencies in the European abroad, as well as a number of domestic measures.

Perhaps most notably, Amri’s freedom of movement could have been restricted, thereby hampering his ability to integrate into the German jihadist network in Hanover and to commit an attack in Berlin – both places far from his home in North-Rhine Westphalia. The German Residence Act enables local authorities to require suspect or dangerous asylum-seekers who have had their demands for refugee status rejected to remain within a certain area and to report to the local police.

If the individual violates these requirements, he or she is placed in detention. Significantly, Amri did run into police controls when he was travelling through the country several hundreds of kilometres away from his home. At this point, he could have been arrested and detained had such a residence requirement been in force.(( ))

Legislative fever

Yet none of these measures were taken – in spite of authorities’ awareness of Amri’s jihadist activities. Instead, the young man travelled frequently and freely across Germany, keeping in touch with his contacts from the radical scene and scouting potential places for attacks. The failure to stop Amri is thus less due to inadequate legal provisions than to a faulty assessment of the threat Amri posed.(( ))

Consequently, the Green Party security spokesman, Konstantin von Notz, accused the governing parties of voicing expansive demands for new laws in order to detract from their failings in implementing existing legal provisions.(( ))

Following the events of December 19, Germany is currently undergoing the familiar legislative fever that appears to be the inevitable consequence of a terrorist attack. While it may be necessary to amend or alter selected legal provisions, the rushed introduction of sweeping new counter-terrorism laws does not respond to the genuine shortcomings in the German and European counter-terrorism framework that the Christmas market attack has revealed.

Senators critique an ‘Islam of France’ under foreign influence

The Senate report is concerned with France’s dependence on Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia for certain religious affairs. It lists the domains where their influence remains strong: financing mosques, providing and sending imams overseas to France, and determining the structure of the Islamic federations. However, according to the figures provided in the report, the funds from foreign countries are less than we might think: six  million each year from Morocco and no more than 4 million from Saudi Arabia.

The report argues that the resources exist in France, notably from donations from worshippers. “An imam confirmed…that zakat received during Ramadan increased more than 1 million,” said senator Nathalie Goulet. The report is not opposed to foreign funding but rather hopes to increase transparency. To do that the senators hope to relaunch the Foundation for Islam in France, created in the mid 2000s but never truly inaugurated. It would collect and redistribute funds.

July 6, 2016




The Union of Islamic Communities in Spain condemns the terrorist attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia


The Union of Islamic Communities in Spain vigorously condemned today the attacks in France, Kuweit and Tunisia, and has shown its solidarity with the two nations and with the pain of the innocent victims.
“We are dismayed, feeling their pain as our own” noted the Islamic Commission of Spain in a statement.

“Muslims must also be alert to this criminal violence and we must also make our efforts to detect any outbreak of hatred, rancor or attempt to capture harmful, that spoil the souls of some, because it is also our duty to protect our neighbors and fellow citizens, “said its President, Riay Tatary.

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi denounces the ban against the full veil in Tunisia and France

In a video broadcast on the Internet, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, self proclaimed “Caliph” and “leader of Muslims” opposed the recent court decision that upheld the ban against the full veil in France, and Tunisia’s similar legislation. He stated, “Western countries perceive terrorism in the establishment of Sharia and in the freedom of the Muslim.”

Al Andalus Brigade (an ISIS supplier) detained in Madrid

June 17, 2014

The Al Andalus Brigade had sent nine ‘fighters’ from Spain and Morocco to be integrated into the terrorist factions in Iraq and Syria. Specifically, had connections with groups from seven other countries. The group, one of the leading suppliers of terrorist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), had managed to form its own structure and to maintain connections with groups in France, Belgium, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as reported by the Ministry of Interior.

The group had significantly increased their activities in recent days, so the researchers considered a serious threat to national security.

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

January 21, 2014


Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?
Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

“What dress is most appropriate for a Muslim woman in public?”

Researchers at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan asked the same question to both men and women of various age groups and different religious faiths in seven countries with a Muslim majority. The real focus of the research was post- revolution Tunisia, but scholars also decided to investigate responses in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. Each respondent was shown images of women. The left most image showed a women who was totally covered (burqa ), decreasing the pieces of cloth covering the woman from image to image until the last drawing, which depicted the subject as completely uncovered.

The findings concluded that on average the hijab (veil that covers the hair, forehead, ears and neck) was considered the most appropriate. You could say this is a compromise between the two extreme images. Another important aspect that the research shows is the partial open-ness to different styles of dress in Saudi Arabia as opposed to a greater closure in “post-spring” Egypt.

The research also included a question that went beyond mere aesthetics. Respondents were also asked: “Should the woman decide what to wear?

And this confirms the above trend:  in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, and Tunisia, 50% of respondents where in favor of the free choice of women, as opposed to 22% and 14% in Pakistan and Egypt, respectively.

I must say that by scrolling through the research data, I returned several times to the word used in the original question: appropriate.

What do the researchers mean by this term? Appropriate for whom? For others or for the woman? Who can decide when attire is appropriate or not?

Beyond the specific object of this analysis, veil or no veil, I am always convinced that there is only one parameter to decide how a woman should dress: personal choice. Do not take me for naive, I am aware of the incendiary debates that surround these issues, especially in our cities. In my opinion, the most appropriate clothing is what makes a woman feel free and proud to express herself regardless of expectations or fashions of the moment.

The external influences on not only clothing but also on the image of a woman’s own body, is not unique to Muslim women, but rather something that applies to all women in the world. Let me give you another example. Last year a global campaign was launched called “Dark is beautiful” with the aim to emphasize the beauty of dark skin in societies like the West where fair skin is favored. The pressures of fair skin often prompt many black women to resort to toxic products that promise to lighten skin. We must reverse this situation.

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The theologian Mokrani: Message from Pope Francis adds new energy to the dialogue between Christians and Muslims

August 3, 2013

“We need to train our young people to think and speak in a way that respects other religions and their followers” is one of the key steps of the message that Pope Francis has addressed yesterday to Muslims around the world to mark the end of Ramadan. A very significant gesture, as pointed out by the Muslim theologian Adnane Mokrani, an Islamic theologian from Tunisia who teaches at the Vatican’s prestigious Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Mokrani – First, as a Muslim I am very happy to receive this message of peace and wishes from a great Pope. His name indicates interest in interreligious dialogue: Saint Francis is a symbol of dialogue with Muslims. So, the choice of the same name was a positive sign for interreligious dialogue. And it’s the first time that a Pope signs a letter so alive, so beautiful, open, a plea for mutual respect as a common basis of friendship, then, an appeal to young people respect other religions, and the leaders of other religions …

Pope Francis, who is returning from the experience of World Youth Day in Rio is addressing with particular attention to young people, their training, education …

Mokrani – This special attention to young people is very important to educate young people to dialogue, coexistence, common values ​​for humanity and a more peaceful, welcoming attitude … According to me, this is a common task, a common commitment that should be the goal of interreligious dialogue for the coming years.

How is this gesture seen in the Muslim world, from the media’s point of view, specifically how are these gestures of kindness, by Francis Pope taken by the faithful of Islam?

I believe that they receive positive reaction, despite the fact that the Islamic world today is taken by so many problems and challenges, and then the media is more interested in what is happening in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria: it is an very difficult. But in my opinion, this message may encourage people who are working in the field of interreligious dialogue, to move forward, to have hope and to find new energy. In my opinion, it is a message that gives hope and helps people who work in this field.

Muslims in Brescia Begin Ramadan

July 9, 2013

Faith and integration. Starting today, in private homes and mosques in via Corsica and in via Volta. One month of great celebrations but also of “abstentions” says Bar Abdoulaye Diouf, a 28 year resident of Italy: “I would like the mayor to give us best wishes, as in Senegal”

“I wish a happy Ramadan to the whole Islamic community of Brescia and launch a message of peace and serenity to the Christian Brothers, to overcome this difficult time of crisis.” Saar Abderrazak from Tunisia, who has been in Italy for 26 years, began his Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, during which the faithful are obliged to abstain from food and drink and sexual activities from dawn to dusk. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and is traditionally observed in Brescia, where there are 48.6 percent Muslims and 38.1 percent Christians (between Orthodox and other rites), 2.2 percent Buddhists, the 1.4 percent Hindus, .7 percent Sikhs and 2.6 percent non-believers.

Percentages come from the 12th report on immigration in Lombardy, debunking the idea of ​​the alleged “Islamic invasion,” because the faithful of Allah are only 10 percent more than the faithful of Christ. The city has had historically high immigration. Slowly Brescia is getting used to, if not fully accepting, Ramadan the feast and sacrifice, the moment of spiritual elevation and solidarity, as it was at one time, for Christmas. Comparison is not risky, since both religions, if genuinely understood; convey messages of peace and love, even for those who do not believe. And comparing Ramadan and Christmas is not risky from the point of view of tradition: both parties provide opportunities for sharing of food, gifts, affections, as well as traditional dishes which are specially cooked during holy times. The main difference is in the period, Christmas is always celebrated at the same time (but it does change for the Orthodox) whereas Ramadan changes each year, because the Muslim calendar refers to the lunar cycle.

BRESCIA observes today the beginning of this feast, which for Muslims holds a deep sense of faith and spirituality, this is obviously different from the way they lived in their own homeland, where all (or almost all) follow the precepts of Ramadan. “The ugly part of Ramadan in Brescia is when people continue to ask annoying questions and when they do not understand why I do not eat and do not drink, and so, I always have to justify myself” explains Ak-ram Harrane, who has been in our city after being born and raised in Morocco. In Brescia, Harrane spends Ramadan with family, sometimes with other Muslim friends, especially in the last days of the month, when the final party is approaching, Eid el Fitr, which in some country lasts three days. Of course, in Italy Ramadan has another flavor: Iftar for example, the daily breaking of the fast at sunset for Muslims from all backgrounds from Bangladesh to Palestine – the ritual includes eating dates and drinking sweet syrup as the first action just after the prayer.

Monia Ali knows the differences well, a college student with a Sicilian mother and a Tunisian father: “The best thing about Ramadan is to be with the family, the sharing of the hardest times of the day and the smiles we exchange when it finally comes time for dinner. The half-hour before eating is the most fun… In Tunisia, Ramadan is magical, I live with more enthusiasm with my cousins ​​and my relatives and we are closely linked. In Brescia is not the same thing because it’s just me and my father and it’s not the same effect: the air is different, the sky is different and there is no contact with nature and the earth.”

I am Muslim and I’m against Homophobia, a Campaign in the Arab World

Monica Ricci Sargentini

May 18, 2013

A Moroccan citizen sent a photo against the penal code which criminalizes gays in Morocco. The sign says: “In solidarity with homosexuals. Love is not a crime.” Another speaks from Tunisia: “We are human like everyone else, we are everywhere and we deserve to be recognized.” “The Love campaign” launched by an online magazine calls on Muslims in the Arab world to, through Facebook, support a campaign against sexual discrimination especially laws that criminalize gays. But the initiative, which began yesterday in the international day against homophobia, will be active for the entire month of May.

Clinton tells Muslims that GOP campaign rhetoric doesn’t reflect US policy

TUNIS, Tunisia — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advised an audience in Tunisia on Saturday to “not pay attention” to the comments made by candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, saying the often overheated rhetoric of the campaign doesn’t reflect U.S. policy.

Speaking at a town-hall style event in Tunisia, the North African nation that sparked the “Arab Spring” revolts, Clinton said the partisan remarks made during campaign events “certainly don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people.”

GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich said while campaigning that the apology was “astonishing” and that Obama “has gone so far at appeasing radical Islamists that he is failing in his duty as commander in chief.”