Germany's stepped-up efforts to ban some Islamic groups for promoting radical views have sparked a national debate over whether the government is violating the free-speech protections of the constitution it says it is aiming to protect.

The German government's latest move to crack down on groups that promote extremist Muslim teaching came earlier this month, as dozens of police raided homes, offices and religious schools in the western German cities of Bremen, Braunschweig and Mönchengladbach. The security forces were seeking evidence that could lead to the banning of two organizations that officials say are calling for imposing Islamic law in place of German law.

Interior ministry officials allege that the groups, called Invitation to Paradise and the Islamic Culture Center Bremen, seek to undermine Germany's parliamentary democracy by supporting the establishment of an Islamic theocracy within the country. A security official said the groups also allegedly support a strict form of Islamic justice, such as the execution of Muslims who convert to other religions or the amputation of a hand as a punishment for theft.

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