Following in Zurich’s footsteps, the Swiss canton of Bern has instructed municipalities to ban the Koran-distributing campaign called Lies! (German for ‘Read’) from operating in their area. Officials fear their actions could promote radicalisation.
On Thursday, canton Bern Directorate of Police and Military Affairs announced that it had circulated a letter to the municipalities asking them to adopt a uniform practice when it comes to authorising Koran distribution campaigns. It called for a systematic refusal of permission to the True Religion group to distribute Korans under their Lies! campaign.
“It is feared that the Lies! campaign will incite young people to radicalise and serve as a platform for sympathisers of the Islamic State group to meet. Links between travel for the purpose of jihad and Koran distribution actions have been established by several sources,” said the statement.
Authorities added that the Lies! campaign was based on unconstitutional principles and is against democratic principles and the rule of law. Earlier this year, canton Zurich had made a similar recommendation and Basel City canton had introduced tougher provisions to restrict distribution of printed matter that was targeted at the Lies! campaign.
Known for handing out the Muslim holy book on streets as part of a campaign called “Lies!”, the True Religion group – founded by Gaza-born, German Salafist Ibrahim Abou-Nagie – promotes the Salafist movement in Islam, which takes a fundamentalist approach to the religion and rejects modern changes or innovations.
The group was banned in Germany last year and shortly afterwards the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland opened criminal proceeding against certain members. Authorities suspect that they could be guilty of participating in or supporting a criminal organisation and also potentially violating the federal law that prohibits groups such as Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda or affiliated groups.
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