German Interior Minister Otto Schily has pledged to take steps to stop a controversial Islamic conference from being held next month in Berlin, saying it would pose an unacceptable security threat.
Schily has criticized past Arab gatherings in Berlin
Schily said he was coordinating with Berlin city officials and federal authorities to ban "The First Arab Islamic Congress in Europe," which is scheduled for the first three days in October. The planned conference has outraged Jewish leaders and others, who say the group's web site calls for violent uprising against Israel and the United States.
"I will do everything I can to that such a congress does not take place," Schily told reporters in Berlin late Wednesday. "This all seems to fall under the heading of justifying terrorist acts."
Organizers of the conference, who have a Web site called Anamoqawem.org, told the Associated Press that they expected between 500 and 800 participants at the gathering, but have declined to say who will speak and where exactly it will take place.
"We are doing something that is legal," Gabriel Daher, a Berlin-based Lebanese spokesman, told AP.
Daher said the conference was meant to "send a message of solidarity to people under occupation in Palestine and Iraq" and highlight "discrimination of Muslims and Arabs in Europe."
The international Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to Schily describing the congress as "a political platform for radical Jihad and a market for potential European youths recruits to the ranks of terrorism."
Supporting Arab resistance
The Arab group's Web site says it is opposed to "the American Zionist terror" and that it aims to support "the resistance movement against aggression and occupation in Palestine and Iraq." But organizers deny they are catering to Islamic extremists.
"We have nothing to do with Islamists," Daher told the online service of the news magazine Der Spiegel. "Of course it's better if things can happen with out violence."
The report by Der Spiegel said another Lebanese organizer Fadi Madi was more of a left-wing activist and anti-globalization protester than an Islamic extremist.
But Schily appears loath to take any chances in letting the conference go ahead, especially considering how hard the government has worked to avoid having Germany look like a haven for Arab radicals in the past couple of years.
The authorities became particularly concerned after it became known that several of the men involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington had lived for several years in the northern German city of Hamburg.