Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Several young adults wearing orange reflective jackets embossed with the words “Shariah Police” began foot patrols of the central district of the German city Wuppertal, harassing who they perceived to be Muslim frequenting discos and gambling establishments.
The group held that they were promoting their Salafist beliefs and chastising others who deviated from the tenets of the religion. By consuming alcohol and engaging in gambling entertainment.
The German Federal Government reacted swiftly to the reports. Members of Angela Merkel’s coalition government immediately chastised the group and declared that the German State would not tolerate ad-hoc quasi-police patrols such as these. An Interior Ministry spokesperson told the newspaper Rheinisher Post that concerning the Shariah Police “In this way they are demonstrating that they do not recognized our law-based state.” Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, or CDU a major German political party, Security Advisor Peter Biesenbach described the situation as an “alarm signal”.
The founder of the Shariah Police, thirty three year old Sven Lau claims the Shariah Police never existed and that the group was only a few men spending a few hours bringing attention to the issue of Sharia law in Germany.
Deutsche Welle reported Lau is a leading member of Germany’s Salafist movement, advocates of a strict Sunni interpretation of political Islam. He works with a mosque in his native Mönchengladbach, not far west of Wuppertal, and used to head the fundamentalist group “Invitation to Paradise.” (Einladung zum Paradies, in German.)
The central council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) condemned the activities. “These few teen yobs do not speak in our name,” chairman Ayman A. Mazyek told the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper. “These people are perverting the name of our religion. With this shrill and foolish action, they are really hurting Muslims.”
Authorities were notified when people complained of the Shariah Police passing out literature demanding others observe a code of conduct as well as demands that Muslims abstain from alcohol, music, dancing, pornography, prostitution, and drugs. But the matter went from there when the Shariah Police were contacted by the actual police who detained eleven of the group.
Wuppertal Police issued a statement promising to crack down on vigilantism or any other group proffering itself as a police agency.
“The state has an exclusive monopoly on the use of [police] force,” reminded local police Chief Birgitta Radermacher. “Any conduct that intimidates, provokes or makes people insecure will not be tolerated. These ‘Sharia Police’ have no legitimacy,” she added.
There have been repeated attempts, especially at night time, by members of the Salafi Islamist community to influence and recruit young people, the statement said.
The Local reported that police presence in the city center had been strengthened and citizens were urged to report sightings of the group, which has said it will expand its activities in other towns.
The group reportedly identifies itself with the Salafi movement, an ultra-conservative sub-group within Islam with a strong following in the Middle East. Most of the world’s Salafis are from Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Sven Lau has reportedly been under watch by German security agencies and law enforcement for some time. He was targeted by a prosecutor for seditious acts according to The Focus Online. Lau proffered in a television interview that he and his followers stay within the bounds of the law but that anything else is on the table. Government officials have alleged in February that Lau might be supporting, at least in advocacy, Syrian militia fighters that could be linked to ISIS.
In 2010 he declared his intent to establish a Salafi center with an Islamic School, much to the chagrin of others in the city.
Security services also believe he is tied to recruitment of jihadi sympathizers in Europe in Egypt to engage in combat within Syria.
German society, especially the government, is not going to tolerate the notion of the Shariah Police given its religious nature and alignment with a political ideal; especially given the nation’s history in the 1920’s through the 1940’s where paramilitary and parapolice organizations caused incalculable damage to their society.
Most strongly hold that the Shariah Police must be stopped before it advances further. Continuing to allow such demonstrations are likely to put a strain on Islamic relations in an increasingly mistrusting relationship of the population generally.
By Darren Smith
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