Swiss authorities have been pushed to act after the German government launched raids on 200 sites in a probe against Salafist group “The True Religion” on Tuesday.
Known for its controversial “Lies!” (or “Read!”, in English) programme, in which the organisation hands out German copies of a strict traditionalist version of the Koran, the group have also been active in Switzerland for several years.
The German government has banned the organisation on the basis of being unconstitutional and “inciting hate”. There is no legal basis on which to ban groups in Switzerland, so authorities are looking to a town which successfully clamped down on The True Religion by prohibiting copies of the Koran from being distributed.
Attempts to stop the Salafists proselytising have failed throughout the country, except for in the Aargau town of Brugg where The True Religion has failed to gain a foothold. Since 2012, the town has refused permits for requests to use public spaces to give out Korans.
Zurich’s Director of Public Security, Mario Fehr, recommends external experts look into “the possibilities of limiting, or even banning [the “Lies!” campaign]” He said: “We want to put an end to organisations that are close to jihadists and other promoters of violence.”
National Council member Lukas Reimann said authorities must put a stop to the “Lies!” campaign. “Germany is taking tough measures, Austria forbids foreign funding of Muslim groups and mosques. Only Switzerland is allowing [the Islamist group’s activities],” he said.
The Swiss People’s Party politician demanded that Salafists not only be taken off the streets but removed from the country, and said cities should refuse grants to groups who intend to give Korans out on the street.
Already, though, Salafists in Switzerland are changing tactics. In Basel this week a Muslim convert of Macedonian origin distributed copies of a biography of Muhammad, and promoted free audiobooks for children.
Behind this is “We Love Muhammad”, the new German Salafist organisation which was created to replace The True Religion. On Sunday, two days before the Salafist group was banned by the federal government, activists in Frankfurt were already handing out biographies of Mohammed and telling passersby to download the group’s new smartphone app.
The distribution of the biographies has been organised by Bilal Gümüs, the longtime chief organiser of “Lies!”. The now-banned campaign was linked to extremist groups, and several activists involved with the project made their way to Syria to join Islamic State and other jihadist terror groups.
On Wednesday, Austria’s foreign minister accused the Socialist party of blocking a bill which would ban the distribution of the Koran. The proposed integration bill contained a number of other provisions including the banning of the full-face veil and a community work programme for migrants granted asylum.