Exposing Gulf states’ radicalisation push in Germany

By on January 8, 2017

Just a few days before the lorry attack by the “Islamic State soldier” Anis Amri on a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, the German security agencies issued a warning on the worrisome extent of Salafist proselytization in the country brought by NGOs and foundations linked to several Gulf states.

According to a report leaked to some mainstream German media by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and the Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) – probably to put some extra pressure to the government – Germany is home to 9,200 Islamic extremists, with the line between those who identify themselves intellectually with Salafism and those who espouse using violence to realise a radical version of Islam becoming more and more blurred.

But there is a more upsetting element uncovered by Berlin’s intelligence in the report. Such a rise in German affiliations to radical Islam finds a breeding ground thanks to the activities carried out by religious and missionary groups from the Gulf states, who are pouring money, sending imams and building mosques and Koran schools to develop a “long-running strategy to exert influence” on Muslims in Germany. The Saudi Muslim World League, the Kuwaiti Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS, banned by both US and Russia for alleged links to Al-Qaeda) and Qatar’s Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad al-Thani Charitable Association have been blamed in the report for their rising support to fundamentalist groups in Germany. The RIHS is said to have attempted to set up a Salafist center in the Baden-Wuerttemberg town of Fellbach-Oeffingen, via a real-estate firm. The development of a 3,300-meter square plot of land was prevented, following intervention by police authorities. According to BfV, the planned multi-million investment was part of a strategic plan to indoctrinate South Germany.

The intelligence agencies also exposed those NGO’s links with their respective governments, by putting the role of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait in promoting radicalism and Salafism in the country under the spotlight. All three organizations denied the allegations and the government in Riyadh claimed the independence of Saudi religious NGOs; however, global Wahhabi and Salafist proselytism remains Saudi Arabia’s raison d’être and one of the pillars of its foreign policy. While some steps have already been taken by the government to tackle the radicalisation threat following the first IS attacks on German soil – as the recent crackdown on the radical Islamist group ‘The True Religion’ shows – the carnage in Berlin indicate how Germany is still very much exposed on a period of acute internal distress. Widespread criticism of Angela Merkel’s handling of the migration crisis and consequent rising populism, as well as the perceived and actual risk that migrants welcomed in Germany could be an easy target for radicalisation agents from the Gulf, could weaken the Chancellor’s attempt to get a fourth mandate at next fall’s federal elections.

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