Munich: Imam against Jihad recruitment
The NYT headline ("Munich Imam Tries to Dull Lure of Radical Islam") is misleading, as there's no argument that Shashaa himself is radical and that he propagates radical Islam. He's a Salafi, a polygamist, and he keeps radical books in his mosque library. If he would need them for counter-arguments, as he claims, they would not be in the mosque.
The only thing he's fighting is Jihad recruitment, and the argument that a 'true Muslim' has to wage Jihad on their own. Sadly enough, that's already a lot.
Hesham Shashaa looked twice at the display on his cellphone, staring at the number. “It’s either a person who needs help or someone who wants to kill me,” he said.
Mr. Shashaa, an imam at the Darul Quran mosque in Munich, follows the strictest form of Islam, Salafi. But the people who want to kill him are Muslims.
“They use the religion for their personal aims and declare war on Jews and Christians, but I want people to follow what Islam really says,” said Mr. Shashaa, who with his beard and traditional clothes has sometimes been likened to Osama bin Laden. But his philosophy is quite different.
A growing number of imams in Europe and the Middle East have denounced suicide missions and terrorist acts. Many of these imams, however, still view Al Qaeda, the Taliban or Hamas as legitimate resistance movements, while Mr. Shashaa openly declares that they are violating the tenets of Islam.
He travels to mosques and madrasas throughout Europe, as well as the Middle East and Pakistan, telling young Muslims that fighting against American troops and other forces is a violation of their religion. He condemns militant recruiters in his sermons, urges worshipers at Friday Prayer to call the police if they hear about plans for an attack and readily talks with law enforcement officials about the reasons for radicalization and the best way to combat it.
“We cannot just sit down and let other people hijack our religion,” he said in an interview.
Threats come with the territory, so now Mr. Shashaa travels with former students who act as his bodyguards.
“This man is a traitor,” wrote one critic in a posting on a jihadist Web site. “He needs a lesson,” said another, who published pictures of Mr. Shashaa meeting with police officers.
He has a complex relationship with German law enforcement officials, who see his message as crucial and unique here and continually press him to do more.
“We know that he speaks and works against terrorism groups like Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and that is important,” said a senior German security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make official statements about Mr. Shashaa. “He is the only example who is doing it in this way here in Germany, and in this sense he is effective.”
At the same time, Mr. Shashaa said, he must keep the trust of his congregants, who feel singled out by law enforcement agencies.
Recently his own mosque was searched by law enforcement officials who were looking for a specific book about women in Islam that is not allowed in Germany, a Munich security official said. Mr. Shashaa confirmed that he had the book in his library.
“Of course I had it,” he said. “I need to know what is in these books. How else will I know how to argue with recruiters?”
Mr. Shashaa, the child of a Palestinian father and an Egyptian mother, was born and educated in Egypt, where he worked for a time as a journalist. He is in his 50s, though he is evasive about his age because he does not want young people to think that he is too old to understand them.
He has three wives, marrying the later two in ceremonies recognized by his mosque if not the state. The wives and 10 children all live in his Munich home.
Mr. Shashaa said he had not intended to end up in Germany. But he lost his briefcase there on a 2000 stopover while on his way to Britain from Romania, where he had been living. “Everything was gone, the papers, the money,” he said. “So I thought it was God’s will that I should stay here.”
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Source: New York Times (English)