Salafists and right-wingers fight it out | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.05.2012
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Salafists and right-wingers fight it out

A radical German-born Islamist has called on Muslims to kill German politicians. The threats are aimed at the far-right party Pro NRW, a regional right-wing group in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Pro NRW party, which has been classified as anti-constitutional because of its extremist, right-wing tendencies, has been railing against non-Germans and Muslims for years. The party "rejects foreigners because of their background or faith and portrays them as criminals," according to a court ruling in the western German city of Münster.

In recent weeks, Pro NRW has been concentrating its efforts on Salafists, Muslims who want to see a world-wide Islamist theocracy. As part of its recent state election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party displayed posters showing the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.

Strict Muslims interpret the depiction of the prophet in that way as a punishable offense. Last weekend, a video was published on the Internet showing a radical Islamist calling on fellow Muslims to kill members of Pro NRW.

Death threats serve as propaganda

A Jihadist flag at the Salafists' demonstration in Bonn

The Salafists have been protesting against Pro NRW

The murder threat came from a young man who grew up in the western German city of Bonn and who is now believed to live somewhere near the Pakistani-Afghan border. He acts on behalf of the "Islam Movement of Uzbekistan," which is not known as a Salafist organization, but it is obvious that his video has to do with the dispute between the Salafists in Germany and Pro NRW.

Islam expert Claudia Dentschke argues this aggressive reaction is in fact helping Pro NRW. It is only through the confrontation with the Salafists, she says, that Pro NRW is now in the focus of public attention.

Yet the Salafists also profit from Pro NRW's provocations, as the confrontation gives them the opportunity to portray themselves as the true fighters for Islam. Pro NRW on the other hand can depict itself as protecting "western" or "German" values.

Free Quran giveaways

Salafists follow a radical interpretation of Islam and they moved into the focus of public attention in Germany when they handed out free copies of the Quran in several German cities.

Salafist handing out a copy of the Quran

Salafists handed out free copies of the Quran across Germany

Many observers saw this as attempt to brush up their image - what the Salafists didn't mention is that they do not subscribe to the German constitution and in fact seek to abolish it.

Instead, they demand the creation of a religious state based on Islamic rule. They want the country to be governed by Sharia, Islamic religious law. They also want to abolish the separation of state and religion as prescribed by the German basic law.

And they don't like criticism - Salafist have frequently threatened journalists and tried to stop them doing their job.

Street protests and talk show controversies

In North Rhine-Westphalia, tensions between the radical Muslims and the extremist Pro NRW party have escalated. During a Pro NRW party on May 1 in Solingen, Salafists attacked the police and injured several officers. On May 5 there were more violent clashes in Bonn. More than 30 policemen were injured, three of them seriously.

Pro NRW demonstrator

German police finds themselves between two groups of extremists

The conflict is not only taking place on the streets. When public broadcaster ARD invited a Salafist to take part in a talk show, there was hefty criticism - although he was only part of a panel of politicians and pundits. Christian media group KEP accused the broadcaster of providing a public platform for a group that does not respect Germany's basic law.

Under surveillance

According to political scientist Gesine Schwan, who was once a candidate for the German presidency, the conflict between the Salafists and Pro NRW bears the marks of a "clash of cultures" - as does the way the conflict is being discussed in public. But Schwan says it is "macabre that in Germany there is a fear of Salafism." She thinks the fear of radical Islam is exaggerated.

The German security services, though, are alarmed by the new video. Authorities are not disclosing what steps they are going to take now, but a spokesman said that the threat was being taken "very seriously."

Author: Dirk Kaufmann / ai, ng
Editor: Michael Lawton

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