Two days ago the German Ministry of Interior conducted raids against 2 fundamentalist Islamic groups -- — Invitation to Paradise, in the cities of Brunswick and Moenchengladbach, and the Islamic Culture Center of Bremen, on the North Sea coast. The pretext for the raids was to take action against "anti-constitutional organizations". The ministry's statement added that the groups were suspected of opposing constitutional order by seeking to “overthrow it in favor of an Islamic theocracy.’’

When the Federal Republic of Germany arose from the ashes of the Second World War the framers of Germany's Basic Law (primarily the Americans) wanted to install safeguards that would prevent the then West Germany from sliding back into a totalitarian dictatorship. It was felt that the interwar Weimar Republic had been too liberal and tolerant of the Nazis and the German Communists who sought to overthrow it. The Federal Republic was therefore equipped with prerogatives to combat groups who preached the overthrow of the regime.

After the war these prerogatives were used to put Nazis and Communists outside the law. At the same time the framers of the Basic Law sort to entrench religion that they viewed as a bulwark against a totalitarian ideology that enshrined the total power of the state.

It is highly significant that the German government invoked laws that are not being employed against political parties against what are essentially religious organizations. The German Interior Ministry said it was investigating efforts by radicals to overthrow the government on theological Islamic grounds. In a statement issued Tuesday, the ministry said that, “For a well-fortified democracy, it is necessary and demanded, without waiting for the jihad to occur in the form of armed struggle, to take action against anti-constitutional organizations.”

The German Ministry of Interior had actually hinted at this step last month, when Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere attended a town hall meeting in Moenchengladbach organized to protest Invitation to Paradise's intention to establish an Islamic school in this midsized city near the Dutch border. De Maiziere told the meeting that the government was exploring whether Invitation to Paradise could be banned as unconstitutional. The raids demonstrate that the German government concluded that the answer to the question is yes..

German sensitivity to Islamic fundamentalism is growing 40% of the Germans consider Islam to be a threat. Last month's terror alerts that warned of an attack on the German Reichstag and what De Maziere called "a new threat level" further exacerbated tension. The German government of course remembers that the 9/11 bombers had organized in Hamburg.

The choice of Invitation to Paradise is interesting. Its leader is Pierre Vogel a former professional boxer who converted to Islam and spent 2 years studying in Mecca. Vogel is an Islamic tele-evangelist and the guest on many TV panels he now goes by the name of Abu Hamza. Vogel does not disguise the fact that he would like the Muslim Sharia to become the law of the land but insists that this goal should not be achieved by violence.

While the German authorities concede that not every fundamentalist is a terrorist they insist that the fundamentalist organizations facilitate the radicalization process and also serve as recruiting grounds for German citizens who travel to Pakistan and other Islamic countries for terrorist training and then slip back into the country. German converts to Islam constitute the counterterrorism organizations' worst nightmare because of their facility to blend in. Germany's Federal Criminal Police office claims that it has solid evidence that 70 German citizens have traveled to Pakistan's lawless border region for terrorism training in recent years. About a third of them are presumed to have returned to Germany.