German extremist preacher arrested for supporting terror group

Islamist preacher Sven Lau. © Ina Fassbender
German police have arrested an Islamic extremist known for organizing the so-called ‘Sharia police.’ Sven Lau was arrested on suspicion of supporting a foreign terror group.

Lau, 35, was arrested on Tuesday in the city of Monchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the most populous state in Germany.

Ralf Jaeger, North Rhine-Westphalia's interior minister, has described Lau as “one of the leading figures” among German Salafists.

“With their propaganda glorifying violence and their alleged help for suffering people in war zones, Salafist preachers such as Lau provide a breeding ground for the radicalization of young men,” Jaeger said. “They are inciting young people to join jihadist terror groups in Syria and Iraq.”

Investigators suspect Lau of supporting Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JAMWA), an Al-Nusra Front affiliate. He was allegedly a JAMWA coordinator in the NRW, helping extremists to leave for Syria to join the war.

Lau is known in Germany for organizing the so-called ‘Sharia police’ in the city of Wuppertal. The young men were followers of Salafism, a puritanical form of Islam and one of the world's fastest-growing Islamic movements. The group alarmed locals last year by preaching Salafist morals outside casinos and bars.

The government considers the Sharia initiative an act of provocation. In September, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Bild newspaper that “no Sharia laws will be tolerated on German soil.” Despite public outrage, the German court decided that the ‘Sharia police’ did not breach any laws.

According to German media, Lau was born in a Catholic family and worked as a fireman for five years. He converted to Islam, radicalized and became one of the most prominent German Salafites. Lau also reportedly visited Syria in 2013, but he claimed that his trip had humanitarian aims. He is also said to have plans to return in Syria again.