Reul explains the situation in NRW "Bonn is a geographical centre of Islamist activity"

Düsseldorf · A situation report on Islamism published for the first time in NRW provides an insight into the problem area. The geographical centres of Islamist activity include Bonn and Cologne.

 Herbert Reul (CDU), Minister of the Interior in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Herbert Reul (CDU), Minister of the Interior in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Foto: dpa/Federico Gambarini

The North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of the Interior sees the influence of online propaganda and social media on young people as a growing problem with regard to Islamism. "The internet is increasingly becoming a high-performance engine for radicalisation," said Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) on Tuesday at the presentation of the first published situation report on Islamism in Düsseldorf.

Extremists present themselves as influencers, hate preachers have perfected online propaganda on Tiktok, Instagram or Telegram - where young people are on the move. "Extremist content can be found in our children's and young people's newsfeeds around the clock at the touch of a button. With mobile phones, everyone has the radicalisation machine permanently in their pocket and ready to hand," says Reul. Education and prevention, for example in schools, is therefore important for the young target group.

On 60 pages and in several chapters, the new situation report provides an insight into the various Islamist movements and how they are organised in NRW. The report also describes online propaganda and selected extremist influencers. According to the CDU politician, the geographical focus of Islamist activities is in and around Bonn, Cologne, Düren, Aachen, Wuppertal, Düsseldorf, Mönchengladbach, the Ruhr region, Münsterland, Siegen and East Westphalia-Lippe.

Islamists are instrumentalising the Gaza conflict

The aggressive rejection of Israel can be recognised as a common feature among the various actors. "Islamists are instrumentalising the Gaza conflict not only to appeal to their core clientele, but also to promote solidarity with Palestine in the middle of society," said Reul. In many cases, the cloak of solidarity conceals nothing other than hatred of Jews.

According to the Minister, there is currently a "high abstract danger" of terrorist attacks from Islamist-motivated extremists. This also applies to the upcoming European Football Championship, even if there is currently no concrete threat. "The danger is abstract and can quickly become concrete. Experience shows that extremists can very quickly become terrorists, especially in Islamism," said Reul. The danger of individuals becoming radicalised is also currently heightened by the conflict in Gaza and Israel.

After the pandemic, "proselytising attempts in city centres" and the distribution of literature typical of the scene there had also increased again, explained Reul. "We now have the threat on the streets and online." The Office for the Protection of the Constitution will continue to track down these threats and do everything necessary within the scope of its possibilities to avert these dangers.

Opposition calls for more consistency

Reul was criticised by the opposition. NRW must "become noticeably more resilient against Islamists and Salafists" and the minister must do much more to combat Islamism, demanded Marc Lürbke, spokesperson for internal affairs of the FDP parliamentary group in the state parliament. The SPD parliamentary group's spokesperson on domestic affairs, Christina Kampmann, said that there had been little evidence in recent months that the black-green state government was consistently and rigorously combating Islamism.

However, Julia Höller, spokesperson on domestic affairs for the Green parliamentary group in the state parliament, referred to existing preventative measures as an important component in preventing radicalisation. She called for pressure to be increased on platforms such as Tiktok and Facebook to take consistent action against all forms of hate speech.

Original text: dpa

Translation: Mareike Graepel