The 'Islamic State' is now banned in Germany. Will that do any good? While it won't make terror supporters disappear, DW's Friedrich Schmidt says it was an important initial move in the fight against 'IS.'
Just to be clear: the ban of the terrorist organization won't weed out radical extremists in Germany over night. And it also shows once more, how difficult it is for democratic states to respect law and order and still protect society from those who use the Middle Ages as a projection for the future. There will certainly be many experts who'll reject the ban as inappropriate. But they should be asked what suggestions they have to put an end to the repulsive actions of "IS."
At any rate, the state has to take a stand. Recently, supporters of this brutal terror militia have acted out more and more brazenly on Germany's streets. The most recent study by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, clearly shows that the radicalization of "IS" fighters from Germany started almost exclusively in the Salafi scene: in mosques that authorities know to be Salafists, in so-called Islam seminars or Salafi "charity events." This public advertisement for murder and terror has apparently had the desired effects on many young men and women.
Disgusting hate videos online
Many German jihadists have sent loud-mouthed video messages from Syria, which show martial-looking men with long knives and Kalashnikovs threatening their home country. They enthusiastically fight and kill for the terrorist group.
It makes complete sense that the interior minister and German security authorities are worried returnees from Iraq or Syria could present a danger for German society. In May, one of these returnees first struck in Europe: a French Muslim shot and killed four people in Brussels' Jewish Museum after returning from Syria. He entered the EU via Frankfurt Airport.
But let's assume for a moment that the ban will at least impede the Salafists' actions here, that they will have fewer opportunities for public indoctrination, then the ban has at least achieved part of its goal, despite its shortcomings. I'm mostly thinking of hate videos and recruitment online messages. These videos seem to have great power to lure people in.
Let's take a look back in time: in 1993, a similar ban of the Kurdish PKK strongly reined in the violence between the PKK and other Kurdish and Turkish groups in Germany. Whether the ban of the terror militia has similar effects remains to be seen. The Islamists' brutality and lust for destruction makes it an open question.
Ban can only be the beginning
There are a number of questions that, so far, no one can answer, and the ban can't answer either: why is the Salafi scene so attractive to many young people? Why are they radicalizing this way? Why are they traveling to Syria or Iraq only to be used as suicide bombers? How do young people come to see murder and violence as something good or even celebrate it? Are parents, neighbors or friends intervening too late, perhaps because of a misunderstood sense of tolerance?
These are questions society needs to ask itself. Nobody knows whether the answers will be satisfactory. The interior minister's ban is only a first step in this process. But it's an important one.