German printer of Quran hints at stop amid controversy
ULM, Germany — A company that is printing German translations of the Quran to be given away by a fundamentalist Muslim group hinted Thursday that it wanted to stop after a controversy blew up over the project.
Politicians across Germany's political spectrum have attacked a campaign by a Salafist activist and businessman, Ibrahim Abu Nagie, to give away 25 million copies of the Islamic holy book in city pedestrian zones in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
His group reportedly began in October, but the controversy did not surface until this week.
The book also is being offered as a free web download.
Ebner & Spiegel, a printing company in the southern city of Ulm, did not expressly confirm a report in Die Welt newspaper that it was trying to back out of the remainder of the printing work.
"We are currently reviewing the legal implications if we were to cease production or if the customer were to withdraw the order," a company spokesman told the German news agency dpa.
Abu Nagie's group, Die Wahre Religion (The True Religion), already has purchased hundreds of thousands of the books from the plant.
Salafists are a faction within Sunni Islam who urge a return to the customs at the time of the religion's foundation. German security authorities say most violent Islamists are adherents of Salafism.
The printer's spokesman said the company was aware that the customer was "under a critical spotlight," adding, "We consulted at the very beginning with anti-subversion authorities and the police."
He said the printer was told at the time that there was no law against printing Qurans.
"For us, they're customers like anyone else. We produce for our customers. How they market and distribute things is something we have no influence on," said the spokesman.
The parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, Volker Kauder, joined in the criticism Thursday.
"I strongly condemn this project. The Quran is being abused for extremist machinations," said Kauder. His deputy had spoken out the previous day against the project, along with Social Democratic and Green party spokespeople.
"It is right that other Muslim organizations in Germany have dissociated themselves from this abuse of religious freedom," said Kauder.
Security officials have said there are 2,500 Salafists in Germany.
Last year, federal anti-subversion chief Heinz Fromm said, "Not every Salafist is a terrorist. But almost every terrorist we know has contact with Salafists or is a Salafist."
Distributed by MCT Information Services