May 1, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

German president under fire for hosting antisemitic Iran regime clerics

The prominent NGO Stop the Bomb slammed German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier for welcoming a delegation of Iranian regime-affiliated extremists to the Bellevue Palace in Berlin on Monday.

“While the issue of Islamist antisemitism is finally discussed in the public debate, the federal president is legitimizing an organization that represents the agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the Iranian regime’s expansionist policy becomes a topic in the German discourse, Steinmeier supports an organization that follows Tehran’s line against Israel, secular Muslims and homosexuals, “ said Stop the Bomb spokeswoman Ulrike Becker.

Steinmeier, a social democratic politician and former foreign minister, met with leaders from the Islamic Association of Shi’ite Congregations in Germany (IGS).

Hamburg’s most recent intelligence report from 2017, which monitors threats to Germany’s democracy, includes a reference to the IGS and a number of its members’ organizations, including the Islamic Center of Hamburg.

The German government classifies the Shi’ite umbrella group as “influenced by extremism,” the intelligence report wrote. Iran’s Blue Mosque, the Islamic Academy and the Islamic Center of Hamburg are widely considered the long-arm institutions in Germany of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Roughly 150 communities comprise the Shi’ite parent body and approximately 280,000 members are in the organization.
According to German media reports, Steinmeier hosted leaders from the IGS to discuss various topics, including Muslim-animated antisemitism and integration.

Stop the Bomb, citing a 2018 government response to a Green Party questionnaire covering the IGS, said “The chairman of the association, Mahmood Khalilzadeh, belongs to the ‘political-religious establishment’ in Iran. Among the members of the IGS, which is an umbrella organization of different Shi’ite communities, are extremist associations such as the Islamic Center Hamburg (IZH). There are indications that some member organizations have links to the Islamist-terrorist organization Hezbollah. Reza Ramezani, the head of the IZH, is a member of the ‘Council of Scholars’ of the IGS. He is considered to be a deputy of the Iranian leader… in Germany, and he is a member of the influential ‘Council of Experts’ of the Iranian regime.”

The administration of German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote that the IZH is the “most important representative body of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Germany and one of its most important propaganda centers in Europe”.

Hamid Reza Torabi, the head of the Islamic Academy of Germany – part of the Iranian regime-owned Islamic Center of Hamburg – held up a poster in downtown Berlin during the 2016 “al-Quds rally” urging the “rejection of Israel” and terming the Jewish state “illegal and criminal.” The Islamic Center buses pro-Hezbollah and pro-Iranian regime members and activists to the annual “al-Quds Day rally” calling for Israel’s destruction. The rally is a stronghold of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Jewish state.

Stop the Bomb said that “Other members of the IGS also disseminate the Iranian state ideology and the regime’s hostility towards Israel in Germany. Last year, Ali Chaukair, youth commissioner of the IGS, called upon young Muslims to participate at the antisemitic Quds march in Berlin. On its Facebook page, the IGS declared it wants to spread messages from Iran’s leader… in Germany. The IGS fights for the children’s headscarf, condemns gay marriage [as] a ‘rebellion and rejection of the divine commandments’ and demonstrated their Islamist attitude in the fight against the promotion of a liberal Islam.”

It is unclear if Steinmeier raised the issue of alleged homophobia in the IGS with its religious leaders. Iran’s regime has executed between 4,000 to 6,000 gays and lesbians since the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, according to a British diplomatic cable from Wikileaks.

The IGS, said Stop the Bomb, seeks to silence its critics. “Currently, a lawsuit is filed against the human rights activist Dr. Kazem Moussavi, who critically points to links between IGS officials and the Iranian regime,” said Stop the Bomb.

Becker, the spokeswoman for the anti-Iran regime group, said: “Steinmeier’s open-door policy for the IGS is part of a fatal strategy which seeks to cooperate with Islamist organizations that are often controlled by radical Arab organizations or by the Turkish or Iranian state. This policy must be stopped as well as the funding of these organizations from federal funds as it threatens secular and moderate Muslims, endangers the democratic integration of refugees in Germany and helps to spread antisemitism, rather than curbing it.”

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.