German political circles use the terms political Islam and Islamism to refer to a spectrum of organizations that use religion for religious purposes. Foremost among them are the Muslim Brotherhood and a number of Turkish organizations, as well as the Islamic Center in Hamburg, which is funded by the Iranian government.
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After a series of requests to brief the German Left Party on the issue of political Islam, the movements of the Christian Union “Center-Right”, the main opposition party, returned on this file, and the government’s response, which included a clear pledge to fight political Islam and the Brotherhood.
The government response was contained in a memorandum sent by the government to parliament a few days earlier, on August 10, and kept secret for days beyond that date.
In the preamble to the memorandum, the Government clearly stated that “the Federal Government has effectively and resolutely addressed all attempts to counter the Constitution, which includes combating extremism as well as other forms of anti-democracy and anti-human hatred”.
“As part of the implementation of the current government coalition agreement, the federal government will develop a comprehensive strategy to strengthen democracy and combat extremism in an interdepartmental process,” it said.
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The strategy “will adopt a comprehensive and cross-cutting approach”, it said, adding that “in addition to effective prevention of risks through surveillance and suppression, the strategy also includes prevention and the elimination of extremism”.
The parties participating in the ruling coalition pledged in the coalition’s formation agreement last December to take a decisive stance against Islamist organizations, as stipulated in the government formation agreement, but without any details or commitment to any strategy or plan at that time.
“The federal government is currently working on a comprehensive strategy to strengthen democracy and combat extremism in order to implement the provisions of the ruling coalition agreement,” the memo said elsewhere.
“The expected strategy follows a comprehensive approach that is cross-cutting and aims to promote political education on the one hand and effective prevention of risks through surveillance and repression on the other,” it said.
“As part of this project, consideration will also be given to research, prevention and combating of Islamist extremism,” it said.
This pledge is consistent with earlier statements by Manuel Hoferlin, the spokesman for internal affairs in the Free Democratic Party (FDP) parliamentary group (a partner in the ruling coalition), that “the government takes the threat of political Islam seriously.”
“The government did not agree with the requests of the Christian Union (in parliament) because it will soon start its own initiatives” on political Islam and the Brotherhood, he told Die Welt newspaper in June.
The pledge also stems from observers who reported on June 20th that “the fight against political Islam and the Brotherhood is gaining momentum in parliament and the media, which will prompt the government to act in the coming period to keep pace with opposition movements in this regard.”
In its memorandum, the government not only clearly pledged to develop a strategy to combat Islamism, of which the terrorist Brotherhood is at the forefront in Germany, but also sought to correct mistakes that were criticized in the past.
Foremost among these is the absence of anti-Islamism from a preliminary paper prepared by the Family and Interior Ministries for the “Strengthening Democracy” bill, which has sparked considerable criticism of the German government.
The Ministry of Family and the Ministry of the Interior had prepared a preliminary paper for the law “Strengthening Democracy” for community discussion, which states that: “Right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism are attacks on our social coexistence, just like anti-communism, Islamophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other ideologies that promote inequality and discrimination.” Political Islam and its organizations are not reflected in this paragraph.
But the government memo clearly stated on this point that “the Democracy Promotion Act will cover all forms of extremism and hostility associated with various forms of groups, including Islamist extremism.”
“Since the draft law was drafted, the process of forming opinion within the federal government regarding the precise and final drafting has not yet been completed,” it said, which means opening the door to new language that includes political Islam.
In response to a question in the request for a briefing by the Christian Union on “Government measures to combat the financing of political Islam,” the government note said that “the overall battle against all anti-democratic forces, including those belonging to the Islamist spectrum, is a very important focus of the work of the federal government.”
“To this end, the federal government and its administrative authorities already have a set of procedures at their disposal in this regard.”
“In addition to investigations, criminal prosecution and association law measures, the competent authorities have the option of exchanging information at the international level and acquiring knowledge through the system of reporting suspicious activities,” it said, which opens the door for co-operation with foreign security agencies in combating this phenomenon.
“The available measures are reviewed on a regular and monetary basis and, if necessary, expanded or amended, as specifically provided for in the Governing Coalition Agreement,” it said.
In response to a question about the possibility of the continuation of the group of experts on political Islam in the Ministry of Interior, which was formed a few years ago and advises the government on the issue of combating these trends, the government memorandum referred the deputies to the minutes of the parliamentary sessions between May 30 and June 3.
Government Secretary Rita Schwarzlauer-Sutter answered that question at the session. “The work of the Panel of Experts on Political Islam advising the Federal Ministry of the Interior is not over yet,” she said. The activity report of the expert group is expected to be published this year.”
In all, German parties, especially the Christian Union, have initiated nine parliamentary movements, including draft resolutions and briefing requests, in just five months..
The German government responded with five successive memorandums in the last two months, addressing the financing of political Islam, the attempts of these organizations to influence youth, and their expected strategy to combat Islamism.