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BERLIN – German politicians and media Monday called for a crackdown on radical Islamist propaganda after ultraconservative Salafists took to the streets calling themselves the “Shariah Police.”|
Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that laws could be tightened after a small group of men wearing orange vests with Shariah Police written on them, went on a series of “patrols” in the western city of Wuppertal.
“The state has the monopoly on legitimate force,” she told Sat1 television. “No one else is authorized to replace the police.”
The so-called Shariah Police reportedly told people at a nightclub to refrain from drinking alcohol and listening to music, and arcade customers not to play games for money.
A video circulating online shows patrols being conducted by Sven Lau, a German Salafist convert who claims to be one of those behind the idea.
Under current German law, the Shariah Police could at most face a charge of disturbing public order.
Police said the patrols took place last week and urged people to contact them if they saw suspicious behavior linked to Salafist activity.
No arrests have been made so far, but political leaders warned they would crack down on the Islamist patrol if it took its campaign any further, while the conservative daily Die Welt declared, “No tolerance for Salafists.”
“We will not tolerate illegal parallel justice,” warned Justice Minister Heiko Maas.
“Shariah law is not tolerated on German soil,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Saturday’s Bild newspaper.
Bavaria’s interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, described it as a “direct attack by the Salafists on our rule of law,” in comments published in Monday’s Bild daily.
Stephan Mayer, also from the CSU Bavarian allies of Merkel’s conservatives, called in Sunday’s Tagesspiegel for promoting strict Shariah law to be “penalized.”
Volker Kauder, the parliamentary group leader of Merkel’s conservatives, said that the police alone was responsible for upholding public order.
“Therefore we must examine a ban of these supposed guardians of Islamic virtues,” he told the Welt am Sonntag.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany has also condemned the action by the Salafists in Wuppertal.
German intelligence last year voiced concern over the growing number of Salafists, who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam, and said they numbered around 4,500 in the country.
“Salafists and fanatics should no longer be able to hide behind religious freedom, even Islamic groups concerned with the reputation of Muslims see it that way,” said Die Welt.