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Serious Threat of Homegrown Islamic Terrorism in Germany

1:14 PM, Dec 21, 2007 • By ULF GARTZKE
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A new study commissioned by the German interior ministry about the increasingly radicalized religious and political beliefs of the country's more than three million Muslims has triggered a political earthquake and much soul-searching about how to confront the rising security threat posed by home-grown Islamic terrorists. The key findings of the 510-page report--which is based on almost 2,000 phone interviews conducted by criminology experts, and had already been initiated under the previous left-wing Red-Green government--are rather disturbing.

First, the study reports that 40 percent of all Muslims in Germany are "fundamentally oriented". While this label does not necessarily make them hard-core Islamic fundamentalists, it nonetheless means that there are 1.2 million Muslims who practice their faith very strictly "with a tendency to exclude moderate Muslims, to glorify Islam, and to look down on Western / Christian-oriented cultures". Second, 12 percent of all Muslims in Germany can be described as anti-Democratic, "Islamic-authoritarian"; they harbor very hostile attitudes towards Western societies and are strong believers in meting out the death penalty and other harsh forms of corporal punishment in full accordance with Sharia law. In this context, the experts also believe that there is the potential for "an Islamic-connotated radicalization" in the range of 10-12 percent of all Muslims in Germany.

Third, 6 percent of Germany's Muslims -- equivalent to about 180,000 people -- have an "affinity to violence" in the sense that they either tolerate or support religiously or politically motivated violence, i.e., terrorism, in the name of Islam. Fourth, radical Islamist ideas in Germany are equally common among both poor, un-educated Muslims and their better-educated, more wealthy, and, supposedly, better-integrated co-religionists. Finally, and probably most worrisome, is the study's finding that young Muslims--including many second or third generation children of immigrants who were born and raised in Germany and have German passports--are especially prone to embrace violence, radical Islamist beliefs as well as anti-semitism. In essence, most of these radicalized youth embrace a simplistic "single narrative" and believe that world events today are driven by a vast Jewish-Christian campaign of aggression and persecution against Islam. A comparison with France is certainly instructive since the majority of anti-semitic attacks there are now carried out by young, radicalized Muslim thugs, and no longer by racist neo-nazis. In the wake of the explosive report's release, left-wing proponents of an idyllic, harmonious, "Multikulti" society in Germany refused to acknowledge the failure of their long-time ideological pet project. They, like representatives of Germany's major Islamic organizations, were quick to zoom in on the one aspect of the report that seemed particularly comforting: namely that non-Muslim German youth are equally prone to embrace anti-Democratic, right-wing, and anti-Muslim beliefs like their Muslim peers. For sure, right-wing radicalism is certainly a problem, especially in former East Germany. However, as Germany's prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper put it this week, one must not forget that these misguided German right-wing youths are completely isolated, and that no one would ever point to their feeling of exclusion or their often weak educational background as an excuse for their dangerous ideology:

Ever since the ["Muslims in Germany"] report was released, one can hear the usual rituals of relativism. However, those who are simply calling for more state-funded German-language classes fail to realize that there are already Koran schools and mosques in Germany today where anti-Western, i.e., anti-freedom, tirades are being preached in German.

The timing of the report's publication by the German interior ministry was certainly noteworthy, especially in view of the fact that the study had already been released by the expert researchers in July 2007 without generating any publicity. It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the report will have on Germany's political climate as well as key upcoming regional elections. For Roland Koch, the embattled conservative law-and-order Governor of Hesse who is gearing up for crucial state elections on January 27, it is certainly welcome news. It was in his state, after all, that high-profile Islamic terrorist attacks on Frankfurt airport were thwarted in September this year. One final observation. If anything, I would assume that the report understates, rather than overstates the true scope of the security threat posed by homegrown Islamic radicals in Germany. After all, how easy would it be if one could simply give potential sleeper cell members a cold call to see how they respond to our "Are-you-an-Islamic-radical-terrorist" questionnaire?