German authorities say the provocative distribution of millions of copies of the Koran by an ultraconservative Muslim group over the weekend is legal, but will be carefully watched due to the possibility of violence.
Fears are growing in Germany that a controversy over a give-away of Korans may spill over into violence when the Muslim fundamentalists involved in the scheme hit the streets again this Saturday.
Politicians across the spectrum have criticized the handouts because the distributors are Salafists, one of the most extremist currents in Sunni Islam.
A mainstream Muslim group voiced concern that the uproar could trigger hate crimes toward middle-of-the-road Muslims unlinked to Salafists. On the Internet, neo-Nazi groups swapped talk of confronting the Salafists on the streets.
A police union also warned that the bearded young radicals might be attacked on city streets when the give-away resumes in pedestrian zones on Saturday in more than 30 cities. One city, Ludwigshafen, has banned the handouts, saying the Muslim group had not applied for a permit in time for pavement space.
An anti-Muslim group announced an "anti-Islamic cartoon competition" and vowed to hang the drawings outside mosques in May. The tiny rightist group, Pro NRW, is campaigning for seats in parliament in a state election next month in North Rhine Westphalia.
German authorities say the Koran distribution plans by the ultraconservative Muslim group is legal, but will be closely monitored. Interior Ministry spokesman, Markus Beyer, said on Friday that the Salafists' actions were being taken "very seriously." He also said police were investigating claims that Salafists had made threatening comments about German newspapers, saying, if true, they were "absolutely unacceptable."
The German daily, Die Welt, has reported that a video on YouTube showed a German Salafist ranting against two daily newspapers that have criticized their project to give away 25 million copies of the Koran in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Security officials in Germany say that Salafists are on a watch list because all known terrorists in Germany have had contact with Salafist groups.
The Koran give-away is being financed by a Cologne-based Salafist activist and businessman, Abou Nagie and his "True Religion" group.