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Open Letter Hailed as Sensation: Radical Cleric Calls on Muslims in Germany to Reject Violence

Mohammed El Fazazi, a radical cleric serving time in Morocco for his role in the 2003 Casablanca attacks, has written an open letter to Muslims in Germany, saying he has forsworn violence and praising Germany's religious tolerance. German authorities say the letter is a sensation.

The Taiba mosque in Hamburg, the city where Fazizi used to preach. Zoom

The Taiba mosque in Hamburg, the city where Fazizi used to preach.

Mohammed El Fazazi, a Moroccan preacher who knew three of the Sept. 11 suicide pilots, appears to have forsworn violence. Fazazi, who was sentenced to 30 years in jail in his home country for the 2003 Casablanca attacks, has written an open letter addressing Muslims in Germany and saying he has "taken a wrong turn" and "overshot the target."

An archive photo of Mohammed El Fazazi.

An archive photo of Mohammed El Fazazi.

In 1999 and 2000, when he was imam of the Al-Quds mosque (now Taiba mosque) in the northern port of Hamburg, he called on Muslims "to remove the infidels from power, kill their children, capture their women and destroy their houses."

Now Fazazi writes that "Germany is not a battle zone." Every immigrant has a contract with the German state that must be adhered to. Germany, he writes, "has a freedom of religion which does not exist in many Islamic countries."

The fact that Hamburg alone had 46 prayer rooms was evidence of the German state's tolerance towards Muslims, he said, "because there is no comparably large number of churches in a city in any Islamic country."

Fazazi wrote that opposition to Germany's military involvement in Afghanistan must only be expressed through peaceful demonstrations. He added: "The strength of an argument does not lie in a rifle bullet." He also urges Muslims not to live off state benefits. "It is better for a Muslim to live from the work of his hands and the sweat of his brow because that mouthful is flavorsome and sweet," wrote the preacher.

German security authorites say the letter, which is dated July 21, is authentic and sensational. Even though Fazazi is in prison, he is unlikely to have written such an appeal under duress, they say. The letter has led to intense discussions in radical mosques in particular, officials say.



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