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Not surprisingly, the rise in Islamist propaganda has coincided with the surge in Muslim immigration to Germany. Home to an estimated 4.3 million Muslim immigrants, Germany has Western Europe’s second-biggest Islamic population after France. Most of these immigrants hail from Turkey, but others come from Central Asia, North Africa, and West Africa.
One of the consequences of such a rapid influx of a large immigrant group has been the creation of a Muslim subculture in Germany, one that has become increasingly vocal in its desire to resist assimilation into German society.
To further fuel the anti-assimilation message, Germany’s Islamic preachers have not confined themselves to just German mosques but have embarked on a more public campaign to proselytize. As one German intelligence official said, “They (imams) used to hide in the mosque but now they are encouraged to be public. They show their opinion.”
To that end, this grassroots campaign has evidenced itself through imams using online videos and discussion forums to spread Salafism and a call for forcibly re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
In one respect, that effort has taken a foothold in Germany with the growth of Islamic arbitration, a parallel legal system used by German Muslims in which Islamic arbiters settle cases outside the German justice system. It’s led one German judge to comment, “The law is slipping out of our hands. It’s moving to the streets… where an imam or another representative of the Koran determines what must be done.”
In addition to the role Muslim immigrants play in Germany’s Islamist movement has been the added participation of high-profile, highly outspoken native-born converts to Islam. These converts, according to German officials, pose serious security risks for their ability to viscerally connect with young audiences. As one German correctional official noted, these converts achieve almost rock star status because “they are seen as tough enough to speak out in public.”
One such convert is Pierre Vogel, a former professional boxer, who converted to Islam and became an Islamic preacher. Vogel, who has suspected ties to Islamic jihadist groups, has made a career making speeches and online videos in which he rails against Muslim integration into German society.
Another convert is Denis Mamadou Cuspert, a former street gang member and popular rapper of Ghanaian decent who converted to Islam in 2009. Cuspert has been accused of inciting violence and unrest through fiery videos and speeches that document his transition from street thug to devout Muslim. It’s a transition that allows Cuspert to, as he notes, use his “voice for telling people the truth, and the truth is, jihad is a duty.”
Cuspert’s message, like so many of his Islamist competitors, has a long reach, evidenced by comments made by one online commenter from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region who said of Cuspert: “The brother’s voice has reached the hearts of many people here, too.”
Unfortunately, the jihadist message also finds its mark closer to home. Such was the case when Arid Uka, a Muslim immigrant from Kosovo, claimed he was under the influence of Islamist propaganda when he killed two American soldiers in Frankfurt in March 2011. That assault marked the first successful attack by an Islamic extremist on German soil.
Unfortunately for most Germans, it doesn’t portend to be the last.
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