Germany’s Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has called for a forceful crackdown on Salafists in Germany in the wake of the Berlin truck attack.
Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), told German magazine Der Spiegel that he wanted a “cultural fight” against the rising terrorist threat.
“If we are serious about the fight against Islamism and terrorism, then it must also be a cultural fight.”
On December 20, a rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia who had pledged allegiance to ISIS rammed a truck into a Christmas market and killed 12 people.
The attack has rendered the refugee question even more central to the current political debate in Germany — over a million refugees entered the country in 2015 — after the country was already hit with a slew of attacks by asylum seekers in 2016.
Gabriel, who the SPD is expected to choose to run against conservative Merkel for chancellor in September’s federal election, said he wanted a crackdown against preachers and mosques associated with Salafism and urged a harsh response against Islamic hate preachers:
“Salafist mosques must be banned, the communities dissolved and the preachers should be expelled, as soon as possible,” Gabriel said, and added that those who call for violence do not enjoy the protection of religious freedom.
According to Gabriel, half of the people from Germany who went to Syria to fight with ISIS were Germans, often with German parents: “We need to strengthen the cohesion of society and ensure that neighbourhoods are not neglected, villages are not abandoned and people are not becoming increasingly radicalised.”
A crackdown on Salafism is a trend on the rise in German politics especially after the anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) saw a huge rise in popularity following the migrant influx.
Angela Merkel, who started her fight for re-election in December, had already made clear at her party’s conference that she would not accept the same refugee situation the country faced in 2015 again and toughened her stance on refugee’s integration.
She said the same laws applied for everyone in Germany adding “Our rights have priority over tribal laws and Sharia laws.” She also said she supported the full Islamic veil’s ban saying it was not appropriate in Germany.
Recent polls also showed that support for the chancellor conservative bloc is up despite the Christmas market attack and that most Germans are not worried about terrorism, Reuters reports.
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