The act was horrific, nevertheless, or perhaps because of that, the perpetrator is celebrated. “May I introduce the lion from France,” writes a German user of the Telegram courier service about the young Islamist who beheaded teacher Samuel Paty last Friday in the Parisian suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Nothing but the honor of the Prophet Muhammad “moved his jealous heart,” another Muslim posted on Telegram, “may Allah count you as his Shuhada. You must really become jealous of your energetic activity.” In Arabic.
Police shot the 18-year-old murderer shortly after the crime when he threatened the officers who wanted to arrest him. Russian-Chechen hitman Abdullah Anzorov is an idol for militant Islamists. And a role model that other young, radicalized Muslims can emulate.
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How dangerous this environment is in Germany can be seen from a look at the relevant criminal offenses. In March 2011, 21-year-old Kosovo Arid Uka committed the first fatal Islamic attack in Germany. Uka shot and killed two American soldiers at Frankfurt Airport and seriously injured two others. The night before the crime, the man, who had lived in Germany for a while, got angry with Islamic videos.
The bombs would detonate in regional trains
In July 2006, two Lebanese students aged 20 and 21, studying in Germany, dropped two bombs on regional trains at Cologne Central Station. The passengers were spared disaster only due to a technical defect in the explosives hidden in the trolleys. The Lebanese motive was anger at the reprint of the hated Mohammed cartoons in German newspapers, including the Tagesspiegel.
The teacher’s murderer in France had a similar motive. Samuel Paty had brought up caricatures about freedom of speech in class. First, Paty was threatened and abused on the internet, then the young refugee Abdullah Anzorov stabbed him.
A sad picture
Like the security authorities, Claudia Dantschke, one of the leading Islamic experts from the spectrum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), warns that “this can also happen in Germany”. Dantschke heads the “Hayat” (Life) counseling center, founded in 2011, which deals with the strictest Islamists, the Salafists and their families.
The clientele also includes jihadists, supporters of terrorist organizations such as the “Islamic State” and Al Qaeda. However, the image Dantschke has gotten of the self-proclaimed ‘lions’ over the years is pathetic.
I have no idea about Islam
“Usually they have no idea about Islam,” she says mockingly about “passport Muslims”. The majority of men in the environment are between 17 and 27 years old. The boys who traveled to ISIS in Syria and Iraq “were between the ages of 18 and 21,” Dantschke said. The women were even younger, “from 16, 17 to 21”.
Girls entered the Salafist scene earlier, “at the age of 13 or 14”. Why? Girls are “developed earlier,” says Dantschke. But she also testifies that the young Salafist women “have very, very naive ideas about Islamic life”. The “mujahid”, the Islamist warrior, is “a pop star like Justin Bieber” to young women.
For Dantschke, the environmental magnitude of young radicalized Muslim men and women cannot be reliably quantified. However, it is clear that this is a small minority.
At least four and a half million Muslims live in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has found just over 12,000 men and women in Salafism. The growth was rapid, in 2011 there were only 3800. The proportion of women has risen to over 13 percent for 2019, according to the report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Authorities are little consoled that the scene, as it is called in security circles, has apparently stagnated this year.
Young people looking for orientation
Neither the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, nor Dantschke made everything clear. The causes of radicalization will not disappear. “There are young people who come from very authoritarian families and have no freedom,” Dantschke reports.
“And there are young people from rather loose families, where there is no support.” The boys and girls from both family types “look for someone who notices them, who takes them seriously, who offers them perspective”. Dantschke made the experience that “they are not looking for Islam, they are looking for orientation, attention”. And ended up with the Salafists.
However, from Dantschke’s point of view, the situation in France is even more threatening than in Germany. The social exclusion of young Muslims from the “banlieues”, the high-rise areas on the outskirts of Paris and other large cities, is more severe than in the Federal Republic. The French state usually responds to protests with repression, “that does not solve the causes”. Germany is better positioned with the state-sponsored prevention network.