Salafists and Right-Wing Populists Battle in Bonn

The Pro-NRW caricature "contest" intentionally recalls the publishing of...

Germany’s right-wing populists are fond of insulting Islam in order to attract attention. On Saturday, violence prone Salafists took the bait, resulting in a riot that left 29 police injured. Despite the clash, however, the anti-Islam party can continue to display their anti-Islam caricatures, a court has decided.

It was clear from the start that the tiny, right-wing populist group Pro-NRW would stop at nothing to attract attention in the run-up to state elections in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia this Sunday. With Salafists in the state now reacting violently to Pro-NRW’s inflammatory parading of Muhammad caricatures in front of Muslim establishments, the splinter party appears to have gotten its wish.

On Saturday, violence flared anew when Salafists attacked police protecting a Pro-NRW demonstration in front of a Saudi Arabian school in Bonn. Twenty-nine officers were wounded, two of them having been stabbed, and more than 100 people were arrested. On Monday, a 25-year-old man was arrested and charged with attempted murder in the knife attacks.

Ralf Jäger, interior minister for the state, promised that there would be “severe consequences,” adding that he would “join the federal government in exploring all legal possibilities for countering these extremists.” The police president in Bonn, Ursula Brohl-Sowa, spoke of an “explosion of violence like we haven’t seen for some time.”

The Pro-NRW march in Bonn consisted of just over two dozen people, but some 500 to 600 counter-demonstrators also gathered, including, according to police estimates, some 200 Salafists who had travelled to Bonn from across the country. Several hundred police were also present to keep the two groups separated.

‘Deliberately Provoked’

Kolbe said the march was peaceful until right-wing populists began showing their anti-Islam caricatures, including one by Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who created one of the Muhammad drawings which set off global unrest in 2006. One pro-NRW member, Kolbe told SPIEGEL ONLINE, climbed onto the shoulders of a comrade in order to hold the placard above a police vehicle positioned so as to block the view. “The Pro-NRW people very deliberately provoked,” Kolbe said.

Still, he said, it was clear that many of the counter-demonstrators had come prepared for violence. Several more knives were found among the 109 people arrested, along with pepper sprays. The vast majority of those taken into custody, said Kolbe, were not from Bonn but had travelled from elsewhere in the country to take part in the demonstration. Once the violence started, he added, several counter-demonstrators began tearing up the yards of nearby houses in the search for projectiles, even demolishing a decorative fountain in the process. “When it comes to the violence,” Kolbe said, “we believe that most of those involved were Salafists.

Germany’s Salafists have recently attracted significant public attention due to anongoing campaign to distribute millions of free copies of the Koran throughout the country. More ominously, however, the group, which strives to adhere to the pure form of Islam practiced by the Prophet Muhammad, has shown a readiness to promote violence. Salafist connections with jihad groups are not uncommon and the man who shot to death two US servicemen in 2010 was likewise linked to the group.

Moderate Muslims in Germany have consistently sought to distance themselves from the Salafists. On Monday, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany — one of many such groups which represent a portion of Germany’s Muslim population — issued a statement condemning the Saturday violence. “Reacting to provocation with violence is not acceptable for peace-loving Muslims because it is un-Islamic and, more than anything, plays into the hands of the right wing,” the statement said.


Spiegel has the full article

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