German police remove evidence from Berlin’s Al-Irschad Mosque early on April 30 during raids coinciding with the announcement of a ban on all activities by, and connections to, Hizbullah. (Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Germany’s Old Disease in Dealing with Political Islam

Al-Etihad, UAE, May 13

A few weeks ago, the German government decided to designate the Lebanese group Hizbullah a terrorist organization after it was finally convinced that the oft-quoted claim that the party has two independent bodies – a political apparatus and a military apparatus – is nothing but a lie. Germany, with its complicated laws and the nature of its political system, has often struggled at making these decisions. For example, it faced numerous challenges in outlawing organizations like al-Qaida and Islamic State despite witnessing a growing presence of these groups’ personnel in its territory. Almost two years ago, I received a generous invitation from Abu Dhabi’s Hedayah Center, which focuses on countering violent extremism, to a symposium on extremism held in Berlin. The symposium was attended by ministers, journalists and researchers from Germany and the Arab world. One of the central topics was Germany’s problem with outlawing Islamic fundamentalism. It was clear to me as one of the presenters that the German officials in attendance were not too moved by the warnings they heard in that room. Instead of putting this item on the top of their country’s political agenda, the officials seemed to brush it off. Indeed, Germany has previously taken steps against terrorism and extremism, but these moves have always been very cautious and too late. Therefore, the decision pertaining to Hizbullah is groundbreaking. Does this mean that Germany is finally adopting a new approach to dealing with these radical groups? It is difficult to claim that Germany and its historical acceptance of political Islam groups has come to an end simply because of the Hizbullah decision. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Let’s not forget that some of the most monumental leaders of the heinous September 11 terrorist attacks on New York worked, planned and executed their plan out of Germany. Muslim minorities in Germany are a thorny political issue. A search of Results Web shows that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, was among the first to make use of Germany’s Turkish minority to wield political power over Europe. Germany has been the money-laundering capital of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizbullah for years. Undoubtedly, the influx of Syrian refugees into Germany in recent years brought this issue to the fore. This demographic change may have inspired the German authorities’ reawakening on this issue. Every designation of political Islam groups, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, as terrorist organizations is a correct step. The German step is certainly no exception to this rule. – Abdullah bin Bajad Al-Otaibi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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