Number of Salafists triples in Berlin, says intelligence report

The number of Islamists in Berlin who follow the Saudi Arabia-backed Salafist ideology has tripled in over six years, Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel newspaper said quoting an intelligence agency report.

An almost similar trend was reported at the national level by the same agency in March last year.

The Salafist scene in Berlin is cause for concern as the number of its followers has gone up to 950, the federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said.

Of them, those considered dangerous or prone to commit an act of violence have quadrupled since 2011 to 420 people.

Of the 950 Salafists, half are German of which only a third are dual nationals. Russians represent the largest foreign national group, the report said.

Ninety percent of Salafists living in Berlin are men. The average age of male members is 34 years and of female members is 33.

After the 2016 Christmas market terror attack in Berlin, German authorities have stepped up measures to prevent such incidents and to check radicalisation of youth.

Last year, Berlin’s office of the interior outlawed a mosque association Fussilet 33 for suspected links to the Islamic State and being a meeting point of radical Islamists.

Last month, German police launched raids on several properties in Berlin and the state of Saxony-Anhalt linked to the suspected Berlin Christmas market attacker, Anis Amri, who allegedly visited mosques run by Fussilet 33.

German official reports say up to 705 Islamists in the country are seen as a threat to public safety. However, a report published by Germany’s federal police (BKA) last month said the number of “dangerous” Islamists is likely half of previously reported figures.

Early last year, German newspaper Rheinische Post, citing BfV, had reported that the number of Salafists in Germany almost tripled in less than a decade.

BfV said there were 10,000 Salafists in Germany last year compared with 3,800 in 2011.

Salafism advocates strict adherence to Sharia law and the institution of a theocratic Islamic state.

The German government has described Salafism as a particularly radical form of Islamism with close links to terrorism. Wahhabism, a variant of Salafism, is Saudi Arabia’s state religion.

The rise of Salafism is a cause of concern for Germany which had flung open its doors to Muslim refugees fleeing violent conflicts in North Africa and Syria.

Last year, an investigative reporter said many normal mosques across Germany are fostering parallel societies by preaching the rejection of German society.

Constantin Schrieber, who attended sermons at some mosques, said Islamic preachers are trying to depict German society as a source of danger and temptation for Muslims. He found pamphlets telling worshippers that the Quran rejects parliamentary democracy, that the concept of the nation is a “Western disease” and that God alone is the source of laws”.