The German government says it is going to crack down on volunteer patrols known as “Shariah police” recently seen walking outside nightclubs and a city train station asking passersby not to drink alcohol and gamble.
"Sharia law is not tolerated on German soil," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the German newspaper Bild on Saturday. "Nobody can take it upon themselves to abuse the good name of the German police."
Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that the initiative to promote Islamic law would not be tolerated and that “the state alone” has the authority to mete out justice, Deutsche Welle reported.
The founder of the “Shariah police” said the patrols aimed only to raise awareness in Wuppertal for strict Islamic traditions.
Wuppertal police have now begun pressing charges against those wearing the makeshift uniform which consisted of an orange safety vest emblazoned with the words “Shariah police.”
Sven Lau, 33, a leader of the hardline Salafist movement who used to head the Islamist group named “Invitation to Paradise” was identified by Deutsche Welle as spearheading the patrol initiative. Lau said in a video posted Saturday that the patrol doesn’t officially exist, but rather aimed simply to draw attention.
"We knew that this would raise attention," Lau said.
That attempt at reassurance didn’t stop the criticism.
"These people are perverting the name of our religion,” Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) chairman Ayman A. Mazyek told Tagesspiegel am Sonntag, according to Deutsche Welle. “With this shrill and foolish action, they are really hurting Muslims.”
Deutsche Welle reported Friday that the Muslim activists declared the nightclub area of Wuppertal as a "Sharia Controlled Zone” as they handed out leaflets “urging people to refrain from alcohol, drugs, gambling, attending concerts, watching pornography or visiting prostitutes.”
The German paper reported that following a slew of complaints by the public, 11 men between the ages of 19 and 33 seen patrolling the streets Wednesday were stopped by police.
"Intimidation or provocation won't be tolerated," Wuppertal Police Chief Birgitta Rademacher said on Friday.
Wuppertal Mayor Peter Jung said, "These people's intention is to provoke and intimidate and force their ideology.”
Israel’s i24 News reported Sunday that German officials are concerned the Shariah police members might also reach out to German Muslim youths to encourage them to join the growing number of European Muslims traveling to Syria to volunteer for the Islamic State or other terrorist groups.