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Homegrown terrorism

June 25, 2011

Germany's interior minister met with Muslim community leaders to discuss how they can prevent youth radicalization. Muslim leaders countered that the responsibility lies with the government.

Illustration shows a shadow of a hooded man with an assault rifle and outlines of Berlin landmarks
German Muslims must prevent radicalization, says FriedrichImage: DW/Fotolia-Oleg_Zabielin/Cmon/FelixPergande

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich urged the country's Muslim community on Friday to do more to prevent the spread of radicalization among its youth. He told Muslim leaders at a meeting in Berlin that families must act early to prevent young boys from turning into jihadists.

"Neither the security authorities nor ordinary Muslim citizens can do much to help," when youths radicalize, he said. "It is up to the parents and the rest of the family to be observant about what their children are up to and how they are changing."

Friedrich, a member of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), had summoned the meeting to discuss the risks of homegrown terrorism.

Common enemy

"We want to stand up to the radicalization and misuse of religion together," he said. "All citizens of this country, no matter what our political tendency or religion, must take on the fight against radicalism and terror."

Hans-Peter Friedrich (C) leads a meeting with religious community leaders, Politicians and emergency services staff
The opposition called Friedrich's 'prevention summit' into questionImage: picture alliance/dpa

During the three-hour meeting, Friedrich referred to 21-year-old Arid Uka, a Kosovar man brought up in Germany, who killed two US airmen on March 2 when he attacked a bus of American military personnel at Frankfurt Airport.

Friedrich said Uka was radicalized "not in the classical environment of a mosque or Muslim society but on the Internet."

'Stigmatizing' Muslims

Germany's political opposition denounced the meeting, saying the government ran the risk of stigmatizing all Muslims.

"If we want to isolate extremists who are prone to violence, we must support moderate Muslims and make them feel welcome in Germany," said the center-left Social Democrats parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann.

The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, attended the meeting, but said he thought it had the wrong focus.

"We have over 2,500 mosques and there aren't even a dozen fringe groups," he said. "We have to make it clear they are a small and dwindling group and that by talking about them and hyping them, we just strengthen them.

"That should not be the aim of a conference like this," he added.

A German flag hanging from a minaret
Mazyek wants the German government to promote tolerance for IslamImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Mazyek said the government needed to work harder on making Muslims feel at home in Germany and to campaign against Islamophobia. He said lack of integration into society was the main cause for radicalization of Muslim youths.

Mazyek added that Muslim groups had already been cooperative in the government's bid to prevent terrorism. He said that the effort should not be a "one-way street."

Further criticism of the summit came from Kenan Kolat, head of the organization Turkish Community in Germany, who said the meeting provided "no new insight." Kolat questioned the purpose of the summit. He said the German Islam Conference, also called by the government, already focused on the topic of radicalization and that security should be the responsibility of security authorities.

The best prevention against radicalization, Kolat said, was good education.

Author: David Levitz (epd, dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico