There are now some 7,900 Salafists living in Germany, Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's federal intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz (BfV), told Berlin's "Der Tagesspiegel" on Thursday. This, he said, represents "a new high-point."
But the agency's definition of a Salafist remains somewhat nebulous. According to the BfV's website, the term (based on the Arabic word "salaf," or ancestor, referring to the first three generations of Muslims that began with the prophet Mohammed) is an umbrella term for an "Islamist ideology formed by Wahhabism, which orientates itself by the ideas of the first Muslims and the early Islamic times." The word Wahhabism, in turn, comes from the 18th century Arab scholar Muhammad Ibn Abdalwahhab, whose purist ideas went on to determine the political regime of Saudi Arabia.
But there no organizations and few Muslims in Germany who would identify themselves as "Salafist." "They might call themselves Salafia, the Arabic word, though a young Muslim wouldn't say Salafist, because it is seen as a combative word," said Aylin Yavas of Ufuq, a pedagogical NGO that works to counter political extremism among young Muslims in Berlin.