Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the German domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), noted the sharp rise in Salafist believers. Mr. Maassen noted that the larger the pool of overall Salafist members, the larger the base for recruitment for terrorist groups like Islamic State.
According to Mr. Maassen, the BfV have long known that of those Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State, most of them were Salafists – and many have now returned to Germany.
The BfV warn that they are having difficulty determining whether or not a Salafist will turn to violence as many Salafist preachers see violence as a legitimate method to promote Islam. One such preacher is Sven Lau, who is currently awaiting trial for helping to recruit and raise money for Islamic State.
Lau is only one of many Salafist preachers who has been tied to the terror group, often accused of recruiting for the organisation.
Mr. Maassen has expressed concern over more potential lone-wolf attackers who are either being directed by Islamic State via encrypted mobile messaging systems such as Telegram, or who are inspired by the group’s propaganda presence online. “Of the 15 attacks of the last two years twelve were committed by lone actors,” he said.
WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook are crucial infrastructure for Islamists in Germany, Mr. Maassen said. The social media platforms allow Islamic State to direct attackers instantly from anywhere in the world, with some of their encryption systems, notably Telegram, being difficult to crack.
The Salafist belief has its roots in strict conservative Islam and the 20th-century writings of Muslim Brotherhood member Sayyid Qutb, seen as the originator of Islamism. Qutb argued in the mid-20th century that Islam had a duty to wage jihad against the West which he saw as “paganising” Islam and the Middle East.
Islamic scholar Gilles Kepel also shares anxiety over the rise of Salafism in Europe saying that the third generation of Muslims in Europe, who he calls “Generation Jihad”, could be leading the continent down the path of civil war.