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Germany applies anti-Nazi laws in crackdown on Salafi Islamic groups

German police yesterday targeted two Salafi Islamic groups in what officials say is an investigation into efforts to overthrow the government.

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German authorities hardened a crackdown on Islamic groups yesterday, raiding homes and schools that reportedly belong to adherents of fundamentalist Salafi Islam.

German officials said the preemptive raids, conducted under German anti-Nazi laws of association, were aimed at uncovering unconstitutional or separatist acts and not part of an international terror hunt.

The raids targeted the Islamic Cultural Center of Bremen, on the North Sea, along with a group calling itself Invitation to Paradise in two small northwest German cities. Invitation to Paradise's leader has called for sharia, or Islamic law, to prevail one day but has specifically opposed using violence to impose it.

While some experts say police overreacted in conducting the raids, German officials have come under great pressure from local media and citizen groups to respond to some Muslim organizations that appear to resist joining mainstream German society.

“These groups are a problem for integration, even maybe for radicalization, though not necessarily for violent jihad. They are very orthodox and like to be separate but are not preaching but usually condemning violence,” says Alexander Ritzmann, a former Berlin member of parliament now with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. “The problem is that some jihadis in Germany from before identified themselves as Salafi.”

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