Some 1,000 German police in seven states raided facilities belonging to ultra-conservative Salafist organizations on Thursday, as the Interior Ministry announced that one such group has been banned. Authorities are concerned about the growing numbers of violence-prone Salafists in the country.
For weeks, German officials have focused a significant amount of attention on the country's Salafists, members of a fundamentalist strain of Islam who are suspected of having close ties to Islamist extremists. On Thursday, they made their move, raiding Salafist facilities in seven German states and banning one of the most important Salafist groups in the country, the Millatu Ibrahim.
"The organization acts in opposition to the idea of constitutional order and multicultural understanding," German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Thursday morning. He added that the group promotes violence in its "fight against existing constitutional order."
In addition, Friedrich say that two other Salafist groups have now been placed under investigation in the hopes of finding enough evidence to be able to ban them as well. Some 1,000 police officers took part in the early morning raids.
Authorities estimate that some 4,000 people belong to Salafist groups in Germany, and that it is the fastest growing strain of Islam in the country. Salafists are considered by the German government to be particularly dangerous and prone to violence, primarily because of their single-minded goal of establishing Sharia in Germany and their rejection of Western values. Furthermore, authorities believe that Salafist groups have close ties to jihadist fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Active Salafist Scene
Salafists have been in the headlines all spring, initially because of their drive to attract new members by handing out free Korans in major German Cities. One of the groups heavily involved in that effort, known as "Die Wahre Religion" or "The True Religion," is among those now under investigation. The founder of Die Wahre Religion, Abou Nagie, has long been under observation by German officials due to his "support for martyrdom and the jihad in the sense of using violence to 'defend' Islam," according to a 2010 domestic intelligence report issued by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The state has an active Salafist scene.