Grassroots Anti-Islamism in Germany

by Benjamin Weinthal

In what could be seen as a parallel to the robust grassroots opposition to the Ground Zero mosque in the U.S., citizens of the German city of Mönchengladbach, located in the West German state of North Rhine–Westphalia, are working overtime to prevent the radical Islamic association “Invitation to Paradise” from building an Islamic school there. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Verfassungsschutz, has monitored the activities of “Invitation to Paradise” members, who propagate a Salafist version of Islam that calls for the decapitation of non-believers and the imprisonment of women in burqas.

Traditionally, German politicians and policymakers have bent over backwards to not offend homegrown Islamists, revolutionary Iranian supporters, and Hezbollah activists. That helps to explain why the Hamburg-based mosque al-Quds, which spawned the 9/11 terror attacks, remained open for almost nine years as a training center for jihadists.

A citizens’ initiative in Mönchengladbach spearheaded by Wilfried Schultz, a jurist and a student of theology, seeks to jolt drowsy politicians and government officials into action against the Salafists. Last week, a court barred the radical Islamic association from using a building as a mosque and from building the planned Islamic school, based on an insufficient construction application. In response, 130 Salafists seized a market square to pray and will continue to hold open-air services. According to a local press report, a woman shouted at them, “You’re repressing women and children”; she was met with a response of “loud and aggressive Allahu Akbar (God is Great!)” chants.

“Invitation to Paradise” is a bizarre mix of German converts to Islam and German Muslims energetically campaigning to win more converts to their backward form of fanatical Islam. While the citizens’ group opposing them seems to have fathomed the anti-women, anti-Western goals of the Salafists, Hamburg continues to serve as one of Europe’s leading metropolitan hubs for anti-Western Islamic ideologies and as the Islamic Republic’s financial center. Take the example of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who appointed the director of the Islamic Center of Hamburg, which is part of the Imam Ali Mosque. The mosque’s imam, Ayatollah Reza Ramezani, has invoked the standard Iranian battle cry for wiping Israel off the map, “liberation of Jerusalem from the Zionist system,” and his mosque serves as a meeting place for members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which the U.S. has designated as global terrorist organization.

Despite the banning of the al-Quds moque this year, Hamburg still remains an “Invitation to Paradise” for radical Islam.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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