Germany Bans Islamic Organization Accused of Extremism, Spreading Anti-Semitic Propaganda
AP, Jan. 15, 2003
Germany’s top law enforcement official outlawed an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda to explain the third such ban since Sept. 11.
Little is known about the organization and structure of Hizb ut-Tahrir, but German authorities say the group whose name means Liberation party advocates the destruction of Israel and has called for the killing of Jews.
In conjunction with the ban, police raided 30 properties in five of Germany’s 16 states, seizing propaganda but making no arrests.
Interior Minister Otto Schily expressed particular concern over the spread of propaganda at universities, noting that several of the Sept. 11 plotters studied in Germany.
“I will not tolerate organizations here engaging in anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hate propaganda,” Schily told a news conference. Inciting racial or anti-Semitic hatred is outlawed in Germany.
Describing the group as secretive, Schily said it has been active in Germany distributing leaflets with anti-Semitic messages at mosques, Islamic centers and universities. It also has a German-language magazine and Web site, delivering the same propaganda.
But authorities have no reliable information on how many people in Germany belong to the group, or whether it has links with other Islamic organizations. “We are following some trails,” Schily said.
Schily described an event at Berlin’s Technical University last October during which a speaker made anti-Semitic remarks and urged the introduction of a caliphate, or strict Islamic state, in Muslim countries.
It remains unclear how successful the group was at recruiting at universities a concern for German authorities since revelations that the Hamburg cell of Sept. 11 plotters posed as ordinary foreign students for years before the deadly mission.
Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects accusations of extremism and says its aim is to restore the “Islamic way of life” in the Muslim world. A spokesman for the group in Britain said Germany’s action was “tantamount to thought-policing.”
“We are not against Jews or Christians. We are against the state of Israel,” Imran Waheed said by telephone. The group “doesn’t believe in the use of violence and armed struggle to achieve its aims.”
The group has been under observation by officials in Germany since at least 2000. In November, federal authorities raided 27 apartments belonging to members of sympathizers across the country on suspicion of founding a radical Islamic organization.
Under anti-terror legislation introduced after Sept. 11, Germany loosened legal protections for religious groups and allowed for the first time outlawing of foreign-based groups. That opened the way for the government to ban the Caliphate State organization in 2001 and the Aachen-based Al-Aqsa organization last November.
The Caliphate State openly calls for the overthrow of Turkey’s secular government and its replacement with an Islamic state. German authorities say Al-Aqsa organization posed as a charity to collect money for the radical Islamic movement Hamas.
Hizb ut-Tahrir was formed in Jordan in 1953 by Taqi Eddin al-Nabahani, a Palestinian who died in unclear circumstances in the Palestinian territories in 1978. Egyptian authorities outlawed the group in 1974 after blaming it for an attempted coup.
The current leader is the Palestinian Abdul-Kaddim Zalloum, whose whereabouts are unknown. Schily said he believes the group is based in London but was not certain.
Hizb ut-Tahrir faces strong opposition in former Soviet Central Asia, where it is banned and pursued as an extremist organization.
In Uzbekistan, human rights groups say an estimated 4,000 of the country’s 7,000 political prisoners are from Hizb ut-Tahrir, and Tashkent has pushed for western countries to also blacklist the group.