Fears that Syrian refugees flooding into Europe were easy recruitment targets for Islamic extremists were given weight on Friday by warnings from the German domestic security service following the country’s leading Islamist preacher publishing a list of suggestions on how best to approach refugees.
Pierre Vogel, a former professional boxer and Islam convert, described as “Germany’s most influential Salafist preacher,” – an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam – called on his followers to seek out new recruits at shelters set up for refugees.
Vogel told his followers to take donations and gifts with them when volunteering to help with the refugee influx. He also said they should seek out newly arrived refugees at mosques.
Vogel has publicly denounced terrorism and violence as being contrary to the teachings of Islam, and has denied any links to jihadist groups, but in June German police raided a house where he had been living and arrested a suspected jihadist hiding inside.
German security has also claimed Vogel met with another alleged jihadist, currently on trial in Germany, just before the man travelled to Syria to join ISIS. In 2011 he tried to arrange public funeral prayers for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
According to German authorities, The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is watching 30 mosques and keeping tabs on 1,900 Islamists suspected to have links to extremist groups.
A spokesman for the refugee centres said: “The staff recognize the behaviour, codes and clothing of the Salafists, and report the incidents” , with most of the “incidents” believed to have taken place the Germany’s most heavily populated state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
According to a spokesman for the state government, Jorg Rademacher, “It’s still not a mass phenomenon,” but there “had been clear proselytizing” by Islamists “warning” newly arrived refugees against Western values.