The German preacher who heads global Islamist network
On Tuesday morning German police raided 200 addresses connected to a now-banned Islamist movement. Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, the movement's founder, has taken it around the world.
In his video messages to followers, Abou-Nagie doesn't come across as a dangerous man.
In a recent clip, shot in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, Abou-Nagie appears with a manicured, greying beard and short-cropped hair, and greets his followers with the soothing words: “My dear siblings in Islam.”
But, if German security services are to be believed, the 52-year-old is one of the most dangerous Islamists in Germany.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Tuesday banned The True Religion (Die wahre Religion), the preaching network Abou-Nagie founded in 2005, saying it was unconstitutional.
"Under the pretext of promoting Islam, under the pretext of supposedly harmless distribution of translated versions of the Koran that took place in pedestrian zones, hate messages were propagated and young people radicalized," said the interior minister.
The organization's controversial programme called "Lies!" distributes copies of the Koran in German. But experts say the translation is a particularly strict version from the original Arabic text.
De Maiziere noted that after participating in the Koran distribution campaign organized by the group, "140 young people travelled to Syria and Iraq where they joined the fight with terrorist groups".
The “Lies!” initiative is now active in 15 countries including France, Britain, Sweden, Austria, Bahrain and, since June 2016, Brazil. Malaysia is his most recent project, where he still appears to have been on Tuesday, as police raided properties related to his organization.
According to Spiegel, the preacher emigrated from the Gaza Strip - the area of the Palestinian Territories which lies between Egypt and Israel - as an 18-year-old to Iserlohn, North Rhine-Westphalia, where he studied electronic engineering. He gained German citizenship in 1994, reports Die Welt.
In 2003, he is reported to have had an “awakening experience” and found religion.
In his most recent video message to followers, it soon becomes clear that Abou-Nagie is more radical than his calm appearance indicates.
After discussing the initiative to spread the Koran into southeastern Asia, he turns to domestic German politics.
“Only in Germany do we have to live with barbaric politicians who have absolutely no morals and who like to play Rambo,” he says
Whoever does not become a Muslim is condemned “to eternal suffering in hell,” he continues.
The radical preacher also has a prior record with German authorities. In February 2016, he was handed a probationary sentence for professional deception.
The father of three was found to have illegally sought and received €53,000 in welfare payments for his family. He was further found to have hidden income from the state and to have used charitable donations for his own private use.