German authorities have banned an Islamist organization that they say is responsible for inspiring 140 youths to join the Syria conflict.
Germany Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere announced the ban on Tuesday after police carried out dawn raids on around 200 targets connected to The True Religion, a Salafist organization, across 10 states.
“As a federal minister, I today banned the organization called The True Religion,” de Maiziere told reporters, adding that the ban addressed “the misuse of religion and extremist religions.”
“We do not accept and won’t tolerate” the acts of this network, de Maiziere said, adding that it glorified death and terror.
Salafism is an ultrafundmentalist branch of Islam that is particularly prevalent in Saudi Arabia. It is intolerant of what its adherents consider “deviant” or mainstream Sunni Islam, including Islamic sects, such as Shia Islam, as well as other world religions.
The True Religion is led by prominent Salafist preacher Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, who was born in a refugee camp in Gaza and moved to Germany when he was 18. He later became a German national.
The raids targeted mosques, apartments, offices and storage halls. The main focuses of the raids were in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Hamburg, de Maiziere said.
In Berlin 200 officers took part in raids on 20 sites, Berlin police told CNN.
Abou-Nagie triggered national debate in Germany in 2011 when he spearheaded a drive to give a copy of the Koran to every German, Swiss and Austrian household.
Federal Police in September said 800 German nationals had traveled to Syria to join the conflict.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July vowed to boost security and improve counter-terrorism measures following three attacks carried out by refugees. Merkel has come under criticism for her open-door refugee policy, which saw more than a million asylum-seekers enter the country in 2015.
Germany has banned several Islamist associations in recent years, including ISIS in 2014 and the jihadist group Tauhid Germany in 2015.