The Gideons in Germany give away 2,000 Bibles a day and nobody complains. The Koran is another matter. A group called the True Religion has handed out 300,000 copies, many from "information stands" in shopping areas. All told, it wants to give away 25m in German-speaking Europe. Intelligence agencies are alarmed; politicians have condemned the plan. The printing firm has even cancelled its contract. "The public pressure was too great," it explained.
The problem, critics say, is not the gift but the giver. The True Religion espouses Salafism, a fundamentalist branch of Islam. Its leader is Ibrahim Abu Nagie, a Palestinian-born, Cologne-based preacher with intolerant views and a knack for getting others to embrace them. The Cologne prosecutor wanted to try him for inciting violence against Christians and Jews but could prove nothing worse than predictions that they would end in hell. The case was dropped in January.