The Hamburg authorities have won praise from media commentators in Germany for closing the city's Taiba mosque and banning the society that operated it. The mosque where some of the 9/11 suicide pilots had prayed had been a meeting place for Islamic extremists for years, authorities said on Monday. The statement came after police sealed off the building and searched it, as well as the homes of society members, and seized its assets, computers and documents.
On Germany's editorial pages, commentators argue that the closure was long overdue and that the length of time it took for authorities to get court approval for the ban highlighted Germany's weakness in the fight against Islamic terrorism. They say the country needs to become more pro-active in dissuading young Muslims tempted by extremism, and should follow the British example of enlisting former hate preachers who have renounced violence to approach them.
Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:
"The authorities had good reasons to close the mosque. And it isn't an attack on 'the Muslims' in Hamburg or in Germany. The radical Taiba community didn't want anything to do with the majority of Muslims -- and vice versa. But one shouldn't expect too much of this closure. Privately, intellence agents say that they lose sight of a radical scene whenever a ban is imposed. Meeting places can act as a kind of spy hole for investigators. Besides, experts have long since registered that mosques have lost significance as contact points for young people who want to wage jihad. The Internet, private homes, fitness studios or even prisons are becoming more important in this respect."
"What Germany lacks is a comprehensive deradicalization strategy that doesn't confine itself to banning individual meeting places like the Taiba mosque. Britain is more advanced in this respect. Former radical preachers who have credibly renounced violence are talking to youths deemed in danger of succumbing to extremism. Why isn't that happening here?"
Conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"What do violent Islamists have to do in this country to arouse enough suspicion to have their activities banned? A lot had to happen in Hamburg before the mosque where the Hamburg cell of the 9/11 suicide pilots drew their ideological weaponry was finally shut down. The imam at whose feet Mohammed Atta and his comrades once sat was still delivering his hate sermons here. The mosque, despite its name change, was still known as a main meeting point for jihadists and all other Muslim communities in Hamburg had distanced themselves from this society. A whole year had to pass for authorities to react to the fact that a group from the Taiba mosque left for the holy land of jihadists, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, to learn the terrorist trade."
"Given such patience, it is hard to believe Hamburg Interior Minister Christoph Ahlhaus when he says the problem has been dealt with."
Conservative Die Welt writes:
"The official reason for the ban itself shows that Germany has spent too long fighting Islamic terrorist organizations with blunt weapons. Ahlhaus said the Taiba society had 'spent years' spreading its aggressive and undemocratic ideology and its view of religion. The hurdles for banning societies are high, and there are good reasons for that. But given that this society was known to have dispatched groups of 'jihadists' to training camps in Pakistan, and that sermons held there attacked our democracy, swifter action would have been necessary."
"The aim was to deprive the Islamists of a symbol, authorities said yesterday. But in the final analysis, the last few years have been a symbol of Germany's weakness in the fight against terrorism."
-- David Crossland
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