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+ Overview

More than 3 million Muslims live in Germany, and 15 percent are German citizens. Germany's Muslims primarily hail from Turkey and Yugoslavia; the German government has solicited for Turkish labor for the reconstruction effort following World War II and again in the 1970s. A third of Germany's Muslims are under the age of 18.

A railway station in central Hamburg.

German public schools are gradually incorporating Islamic education into their curricula, although proponents face resistance from the general public. The Berlin Islamic Federation, which won the right for Islam to be taught in Berlin schools, fell under suspicion from the government for its ties to a Turkish extremist group. The state of Bavaria, which ran an Islamic education program on a trial basis in one of its schools in 2003-2004, also is one of two states that have barred teachers from wearing headscarves in public schools. (Baden-Wuerttemburg is the other.)

There are a number of organizations that represent German Muslims; two of the main groups are the Central Council on Muslims and the Islamic Council. Both groups supported a lawsuit that in January 2002 won butchers the right to slaughter meat in accordance with Islamic ritual.

German Muslims reported an increase in harassment following the Sept. 11 attacks, the ensuing investigation into the Hamburg terrorist cell, and the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings. Germany's aggressive post-9/11 terror campaign has included raids on 70 mosques, but critics say the effect has been to encourage a mutual distrust between Muslims and non-Muslims.

+ Major Terrorist Plots and Arrests

+ The core members of the Sept. 11 plot, including hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, as well as alleged key planner Ramzi bin al-Shibh, formed in Hamburg in the mid-1990s.

+ Mounir el-Motassadeq, who admitted to knowing some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, became the only person to have been convicted for the Sept. 11 attacks when in February 2003 he was found guilty on more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder for providing financial support to the hijackers. The conviction was overturned by an appellate court in March 2004 because the U.S. refused to allow Ramzi bin al-Shibh to testify. After a retrial, in August 2005 el-Motassadeq was acquitted of complicity in the 9/11 attacks, but found guilty of belonging to Al Qaeda. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

+ The plot to attack the Christmas Market in Strasbourg, France on New Year's Eve 2000 was hatched in Germany. Four Algerians were arrested in Frankfurt in possession of bomb-making equipment, chemicals and a homemade video showing the market; they planned to detonate a bomb made from a pressure cooker, a technique they had learned in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The four were convicted of conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to plant a bomb and weapons violations in March 2003 and sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 12 years.

+ Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born German national, has been charged in Spain for having provided logistical and financial support to Al Qaeda since 1997. He was arrested in Hamburg in October 2004, but denies any connection to Al Qaeda and is appealing Spain's extradition request.

related interviews

+ In December 2004, German police arrested three men whom they believed to be plotting an assassination attempt against Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The men are alleged to be members of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group based in Iraq. In January 2005, German officials arrested 22 suspects, including Ansar al-Islam supporters, thought to be involved in smuggling militants between Iraq and Europe.

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posted jan. 25, 2005; updated feb. 6, 2006

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