German intelligence detects threat from radical Islamism

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution reports a significant increase in the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany
El ministro del Interior alemán, Horst Seehofer (R), y el presidente de la Oficina Federal para la Protección de la Constitución, Thomas Haldenwang AFP/WOLFGANG KUMM

AFP/WOLFGANG KUMM  -   German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (R) and the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang (R)

Europe is witnessing the emergence of political action against radical Islamism. The campaigns of the French and Austrian governments have been joined in recent weeks by Germany. The federal government is working to develop an effective strategy to combat radical Islamism in the context of an emerging threat.

On Wednesday, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Thomas Haldenwang, chairman of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, presented the 2020 report on the protection of the German constitution, a document outlining the main security threats in Germany. 

The growing propensity for violence by left-wing extremists has been among the main national security challenges over the past year. However, the report highlights 'the continuing threat posed by Islamist terrorism'.

Un hombre sostiene un cartel mientras participa en una manifestación contra la falta de respeto al profeta del Islam, Mahoma PHOTO/DANIEL REINHARDT
PHOTO/DANIEL REINHARDT-A man holds a sign as he takes part in a demonstration against disrespect for the Prophet of Islam, Mahoma.

The Federal Office has reported the high risk of such acts of terrorism in Germany. In the report, the authorities point to the attacks in France last year, the attack by a Daesh sympathiser in Vienna and the stabbing to death of a gay tourist by an Islamist last October. 

The national security document also notes that the "Islamist potential" has increased markedly in recent months and that a large number of Islamist organisations spread anti-Semitism. Among these groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, a society that claims to maintain a peaceful character, stands out. 

On this point, the document's opening warning notes a significant increase in Muslim Brotherhood membership. The number of active members of the organisation in Germany has risen from 1,040 in 2018, when the first records were made, to 1,450 in the last year.

The report also counts an increase of 170 members of the pan-Islamist association Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party) in Germany. The group has been banned from operating on German soil since 2003, but operates internationally.

However, the characteristics of the Muslim Brotherhood differ markedly from those of other Islamist organisations, according to the German authorities. "While organisations such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda seek to undermine the security system through terrorist attacks, other groups operating legally in Germany are pursuing long-term goals," the report states.

Simpatizantes del movimiento antiinmigrante Pegida (Europeos patrióticos contra la islamización de Occidente)  PHOTO/AFP
PHOTO/AFP-Supporters of the anti-immigrant movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)

The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to subvert "the foundations of the Federal Republic of Germany". The Islamist organisation, according to the report, deliberately attacks constitutional precepts, the democratic and social system and Teutonic local laws. 

The report refers to a 2017 ruling by the Hessian Administrative Court to ensure that the Islamic Society, the parent organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood operating in Germany, maintains links with the organisation and seeks to undermine the country's political system.

The document concludes that the Muslim Brotherhood organisation itself recognises its German affiliate as one of its 'European wings', highlighting the collusion between Islamist groups to interfere from the heart of Germany. 

German institutions take action 

The report sets out a five-point plan to understand and combat political Islam in Germany. In the first instance, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution calls for the establishment of study tracks focusing on Islamism and its structures, as well as the implementation of scientific studies.

Una niña lleva una bandera de los Hermanos Musulmanes mientras se une a los manifestantes del Frente de Acción Islámica PHOTO/REUTERS
PHOTO/REUTERS-A girl carries a Muslim Brotherhood flag as she joins Islamic Action Front protesters.

Another request is to put an end to state cooperation and contractual relations with political Islamist organisations, two measures that, according to the document, have facilitated the survival of these groups.

The third proposal, launched this week, is the launch of a programme to professionally train the next religious leaders by the state. The aim is to control and limit the number of foreign imams with connections to third countries who seek to influence Germany.

The report requires organisations to be more transparent about membership structures and funding flows, including donations, grants, contracts and partnerships, to the Federal Tax Office by mosques operating in Germany.

And, ultimately, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution calls for cooperation between federal, state and local governments and civil society in efforts to understand and combat radicalisation.

El presidente del Consejo Central de los Musulmanes en Alemania, Aiman Mazyek AFP/OMER MESSINGER
AFP/OMER MESSINGER-President of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany Aiman Mazyek

Earlier this month, CDU MP Hans-Jürgen Irmer declared that Germany should also have a 'political map of Islam', a controversial initiative launched by Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab, which involves publishing the names and locations of more than 620 mosques and associations with possible foreign connections in Austria.

The president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, attacked the government's statements and described the action as "irresponsible". "With war cries like that of political Islam and actions of this kind, anti-Muslim racists and religious extremists will be strengthened at the same time, while millions of Muslims are placed under general suspicion," he said.

In any case, Germany has launched the action plan against radical Islamism, a plan that will raise eyebrows in the coming months and will follow in the footsteps of France and Austria in this area.