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22 Nov, 2016 13:16

‘Sharia police’ didn’t break law by trying to impose Muslim rules in German town – court

A German court has ruled that a group of Islamists did not break the law when forming a ‘Sharia police force’ in 2014. The group caused public outrage after patrolling a western city in orange vests, instructing residents to abide by the strict Muslim code.

The group's vests had ‘Sharia Police’ printed on them in large block letters, but this did not breach the countrywide ban on political uniforms, the judges ruled. Under German law, a uniform has to be "suggestively militant" or have an "intimidating effect” to constitute a violation.

The judges specifically cited one eyewitness who believed the vests were themed costumes for a bachelor party. They went on to state that there was no proof to suggest that the men were wearing the vests to break the law intentionally.

The court also noted that police in Wuppertal did not find anything criminal about the men wearing the vests, which were not seized by officers at the time.

The ruling has not yet come into effect and can still be appealed by the state prosecutor.

The men, all aged between 25 and 34, sparked anger by patrolling the streets of Wuppertal in 2014, telling nightclub goers to refrain from drinking alcohol and listening to music, and arcade customers not to play games for money, so as not to contradict the strict Muslim religious code of conduct known as Sharia law.

The group was headed by Sven Lau, a controversial Salafist leader who is currently on trial for supporting a terrorist group fighting in Syria.

In a debate on RT, Maximilian Krah of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party said that the verdict showed that Germany’s courts are unprepared for the culture clash with its Muslim minority.

“The German society and the legal system have no weapons to protect the liberty of the citizens,” he said. “If the country decides that it wants to follow the liberal rules, then the state has the duty to enforce those liberties against the attempts of people in the other way. And this is not what happens in Germany."

“It’s very easy. If you come to Rome, live like the Romans,” he added.

But Remzi Aru of the German Democratic Alliance countered by pointing out the double standards towards Muslims when compared to other religious groups.

“I am against those things, but for everybody, not just Muslims,” he said.

“If you look at the rules and the laws the Jehovah's Witnesses tell you, it is very similar: you should not drink, you should not gamble, you should not drink alcohol, you should not do this, you should not do that. They are ringing your door and the people are not loving it, but they accept it so long as it's within the frame of law. There is freedom of religion in Europe, as long as these people do not harm you and don’t force you to do something.”

Wuppertal is one of Germany's most popular cities for Salafists, who follow a very conservative interpretation of Islam and reject any form of democracy.

The Monday ruling comes as Germany continues to struggle with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, which resulted in more than 1 million mainly Muslim asylum seekers entering the country in 2015. Many residents across Germany have been vocal in opposing the arrival of the refugees, condemning Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for those fleeing war and persecution.