Football hooligans to protest Salafist demo

2014-11-13 18:53
Lebanese Salafist leader Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir patrolling alongside rebel fighters inside Syria, near the border with Lebanon. (AFP)

Lebanese Salafist leader Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir patrolling alongside rebel fighters inside Syria, near the border with Lebanon. (AFP)

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Hanover - A group of self-styled football hooligans won court permission on Thursday to hold a demonstration at the weekend against the Salafist movement of Islamic fundamentalists in Germany.

Police fear the rally by at least 5 000 right-wingers could erupt into a pitched battle with radical Muslims or left-wingers. Recent battlefield successes by Islamic State rebels in Iraq and Syria have put Germany on edge, especially amid signs that Salafism is expanding on German soil.

A newly forged alliance between neo-Nazis, who have campaigned against Muslim immigrants, and brawling football fans, who were previously non-political, has alarmed security authorities.

The administrative tribunal in Hanover ruled that the organizer, who is active in the new group Hooligans against Salafism, was entitled under free-speech rights to lead a demonstration on Saturday in the northern German city.

The court barred a parade, however, saying the rally must be limited to four hours, must stay in one place - a disused bus park near the city's main railway station - and the organiser must appoint one crowd marshal to direct every 30 demonstrators.

Placards with insulting statements were banned.

German police regularly liaise with leaders of demonstrating groups to jointly maintain public order.

A similar demonstration on 26 October by 4 500 activists in Cologne degenerated into a riot, in which 49 officers were injured and a police van was overturned.

The hooligans group has been brokering an alliance since 2012 among violence-prone fans who previously wore their club colours and brawled with one another outside stadiums in the aftermath of professional football games on Saturdays.

Online social networks, which the Hooligans against Salafism use to recruit and organize, buzzed after the court decision with supporters vowing within minutes to attend. Opponents pledged to take part in one of the 18 counter demonstrations registered with Hanover police.

Salafists growing

The Hooligans against Salafism leader, who was not named in the ruling, had gone to the tribunal to appeal a police ban on his gathering.

Judges said the protest motto, Europe against terrorism by Islamism, was not a call to violence and the organizer had explicitly urged his demonstrators not to resort to violence.

They said the old bus park could be cordoned off by police to avert an overspill if a riot began. Judges added that 700 to 800 in the crowd were likely to be members of the hooligans group with the remainder likely to be peaceable.

Police have the option of appealing Thursday's ruling to a higher court. In other German cities, similar rallies have been called off in the face of opposition from the police.

Salafism is a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam. Many Salafists are opposed to democracy and seek to create a strict Islamist state.

An estimated 6 300 Salafists live in Germany, up 800 from a year ago, according to the latest data from Germany's anti-subversion agency. At a May 2012 Salafist rally in Bonn, two police were stabbed and 27 other officers wounded.

German authorities worry that Salafists are the main motivators behind a stream of young men and women who have been departing to Syria and Iraq to join the militant Islamic State movement and similar organizations.

Read more on:    germany

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