Germany’s struggle for the soul of returning Islamists

Der Spiegel reports: When Emrah was furious at Germany, he used the name Schmitz and called the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). He said that al-Qaida was planning to attack the Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin. It was during the autumn of 2010, and Emrah was often making calls to Germany, his old home, which he had left to fight against. It was a fight for al-Qaida, against the West.

Emrah was the first Islamist to attract the attention of Germany’s interior minister. After his call, Thomas de Maizière had metal bars installed at the Reichstag and ordered police officers carrying submachine guns to patrol train stations. The fear of Islamist terror had reached the Platz der Republik, the public square in front of the Reichstag building — and it was Emrah’s fault.

Emrah, a 27-year-old convicted terrorist, is now back in Germany. His journey, which began in the western German city of Wuppertal and took him to Asia and Africa, ended in a cell in a Frankfurt maximum-security prison, with 17-meter (56-foot) walls, barbed wire, motion detectors and surveillance cameras. Emrah’s cell in Unit B measures 11 square meters (118 square feet), has gray bars in front of the windows, and is furnished with a blue mattress, a water kettle, a refrigerator and a radio. Emrah now communicates with the German state through a metal button he can push in his cell.

Now that he has returned from fighting abroad, a new battle has begun. At the center of this new struggle is Emrah the returnee, his future, and security in Germany. It is a battle being waged by Islamists like Bernhard Falk, extremism experts like Claudia Dantschke and prison chaplains like Mustafa Cimsit. They are fighting for the souls of Emrah and his brothers in spirit. [Continue reading…]

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