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'Shariah Police' ditch vests and change name

The Local · 12 Sep 2014, 16:08

Published: 12 Sep 2014 16:08 GMT+02:00

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“North Rhine-Westphalia has become the national front runner in imports and exports of holy warriors,” Christian Democratic Union (CDU) state parliament member and interior policy spokesman Theo Kruse said on Friday.

Kruse argued that the state had become a “national space of peace and recovery for Salafists" and a "safe zone" for Islamists.

But Social Democratic Party (SDP) state interior minister Ralf Jäger said that his opponents were exaggerating the concentration of Islamists in the state.

"Salafism is the fastest-growing extremist threat nationwide,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia is host to 1,800 of the 6,600 Salafist supporters across the country, and numbers have more than tripled since 2011.

Around 130 from the state are believed to have travelled to Syria, according to the state branch of the secret service.

From 'Shariah Police' to 'Pro Halal'

Meanwhile, the Salafist group which made headlines across Germany when they published photos of themselves in uniform as the 'Shariah Police' announced that they plan to rebrand themselves as 'Pro Halal'.

The group, organized around well-known preacher and German convert to Salafism Sven Lau, will patrol the streets without the official-seeming 'Shariah Police' uniforms which stoked anger among politicians and the public.

A video released on Thursday showed Lau walking the streets of Düsseldorf with the group.

“We'll keep going out on the streets and watching out for young people,” Lau said, saying that he and his followers “would travel from city to city”.

'Shariah Police' members briefly patrolled the streets of Wuppertal, challenging passers-by on their behaviour and entering shops to warn them against playing music or serving alcohol.

Story continues below…

Lau and his men decided to stop appearing in public with their orange vests after state prosecutors in Wuppertal and police said they were illegal. 

Charges of unlawful assembly and use of uniform in public were brought against 11 members of the group. But speaking about his new plan, Lau said: “I don't need any vest for this work."

Jäger said that the state government was taking the problem seriously, rather than playing the incidents down as some, fearful of giving the Salafists publicity, have urged.

“Some want to see the people wearing vests with 'Shariah Police' printed on them as a minor thing, a stupid lads' prank,” he said. “[But] this was a provocation against the rule of law, not just a publicity stunt by the Salafists.”

SEE ALSO: Police throw book at Shariah vigilantes

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The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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