German minister urges local Muslims to help combat militancy

By Reuters Staff
June 26, 2011

(German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich at a meeting with religious community leaders, politicians and emergency services staff on how to prevent extremism, in Berlin June 24, 2011/Odd Andersen)

Germany’s interior minister urged the local Muslim community to join government efforts to combat radicalism among young Muslims, putting a special focus on the influence of militant websites.

“We want to stand up to the radicalisation and misuse of religion together,” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Friday after talks with leaders of the Muslim community and security experts on how to prevent the spread of militancy. “All citizens of this country, no matter what our political tendency or religion, must take on the fight against radicalism and terror,” he told reporters.

Friedrich gave the example of a 21-year-old Kosovan man, brought up in Germany, who attacked a bus carrying U.S. military personnel at Frankfurt airport in March, killing two airmen. He said Arid Uka, who has been charged with murder by U.S. federal prosecutors, had become radicalised in Germany “not in the classical environment of a mosque or Muslim society but on the Internet”.

Germany’s political opposition said the conservative government risked casting suspicion on all Muslims. “If we want to isolate extremists who are prone to violence, we must support moderate Muslims and make them feel welcome in Germany,” said the centre-left Social Democrats’ parliamentary leader, Thomas Oppermann.

The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, said extremists were a tiny minority: “We have over 2,500 mosques and there aren’t even a dozen fringe groups.” “We have to make it clear they are a small and dwindling group and that by talking about them and hyping them, we just strengthen them,” Mazyek told reporters. “That should not be the aim of a conference like this.”

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