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Germany raids mosques, bans Muslim group for allegedly recruiting jihadists

Policemen enter the Al-Taqwa mosque in Hamburg's Harburg district, northern Germany, Tuesday. (Christian Charisius/AFP/Getty Images)

The German government has outlawed a Muslim group that officials say is responsible for the recruitment of 140 jihadists to fight in Iraq and Syria.

Thomas de Maizière, Germany's interior minister, announced the ban Tuesday after law enforcement officers carried out raids in some 200 locations with connections to the Salafist organization The True Religion, which is also known as Read — a reference to the religious instruction to read the Quran.

"The organization brings Islamic jihadists together under the pretext of the harmless distribution of the Quran," Maizière told reporters in Berlin, according to the New York Times, noting that the opposition to the group is about its connection to violence, not its faith. "A systematic curtailment of our rule of law has nothing to do with the alleged freedom of religion."

The decision to ban The True Religion comes after police trailed the organization for months and determined the group to be distributing its own translations of the Quran "along with messages of hatred and unconstitutional ideologies," Maizière said, adding that Germany does "not accept and won't tolerate" the network's actions.

The True Religion has become the sixth organization to be banned by the German government since 2012 as part of an effort to tamp down the potential for domestic threats and the radicalization of youth who may travel abroad to join the Islamic State.

Salafism, the brand of Islam this group practices, is an ultra-fundamentalist sect of the religion that is particularly popular in Saudi Arabia. Those who subscribe to Salafism consider the mainstream Sunni Islam and even the more radical Shia Islam — along with all other world religions —  to be "deviant."

Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, a well-known Salafist imam, is the leader of The True Religion who instructed members to hand out the Qurans. He was born in Gaza and migrated to Germany when he was 18 years old. He later became a German national. According to the Times, Abou-Nagie has been on the government's radar since 2005, when he launched a website to spread radical propaganda.

This comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed nearly 1 million refugees — the majority of whom are Muslim — to enter the country last year. Over the past year, Germany has been rocked by several small-scale attacks, including the knifing of a police officer, an ax attack by a young refugee on a train and a suicide attacker over the summer. The only deaths, however, in all three assaults were the attackers.

Merkel, who stands by her refugee policy, announced in July that she would increase security and prioritize counterterrorism efforts.

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