Cologne– Police launched raids in dozens of states across Germany on Tuesday, targeting about 190 mosques, flats and offices linked to the extremist group Die Wahre Religion (DWR) after the government banned the organization, accusing it of radicalizing youngsters.
DWR, meaning “The True Religion”, which became known in 2005, claims to spread Islam in Germany “in a modern way and with the help of new media”.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the DWR group had persuaded about 140 people to join militants in Iraq and Syria.
DWR, also known as “READ!”, made no reference to the raids on its website and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. De Maiziere said the organization had several hundred members.
It “brings Islamic jihadists together under the pretext of the harmless distribution of the Quran,” the German interior minister told reporters in Berlin. He added that the ban had “nothing to do with the alleged freedom of religion.”
DWR has been declared “unconstitutional” under German law.
The interior minister said that more than 140 youths had traveled to Syria and Iraq to join fighters there after having participated in the group’s campaigns in Germany.
“The translations of the Quran are being distributed along with messages of hatred and unconstitutional ideologies,” de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin. “Teenagers are being radicalized with conspiracy theories.”
The official stressed that the ban does not restrict the freedom of religion in Germany or the peaceful practice of Islam in any way, but that the group had glorified terrorism and the fight against the German constitution in videos and meetings.
“We don’t want terrorism in Germany … and we don’t want to export terrorism,” de Maiziere said adding that the ban was also a measure to help protect peaceful Islam in the country.
A spokesperson for the German interior ministry said the ban was part of government counter-terror efforts that have also seen extremist groups including Millatu Ibrahim, Dawa FFM, Tauhid Germany and ISIS itself outlawed.
True Religion was founded by Ibrahim Abou Nagie, 52, who is of Palestinian origin. He was born in the Gaza Strip in 1964 and came to Germany in 1982 as an 18-year-old.
In 1994, he was granted the German nationality. The government had already stopped its support to Abo Nagie’s family after he received funds which he didn’t report.
True Religion has around 500 members in Germany. The organization caused controversy in Germany with a project called ‘Lies!’ to hand out 25 million translations of the Koran for free.
Abou Nagie is recorded preaching against democracy and Western values.
“Democracy is against Islam. And it is the opposite of Islam,” he says in a True Religion video.
He is also on record saying: “If someone is married and commits adultery, he must be stoned. These are the laws of God.”
The Public prosecutor investigated with DWR on accounts of instigating hatred and collecting funds for fighters in Syria. Suspicions about the organizations rose after several of its members sent threats to German journalists on YouTube.
The Real Religion campaign to distribute Korans has been detected in 15 other countries including France, Britain, Sweden, and Bahrain.
No one was arrested in the course of Tuesday’s raids.
German Channel 1 reported that Abou Nagie is currently on a trip to Malaysia, and it is not clear whether there are any plans to charge him with any crime.