January 25th, midfielder Anis Ben-Hatira was discharged from the
Bundesliga club Darmstadt due to his relationship with the controversial Ansaar
International organization, an entity known to Germany’s Office for the
Protection of the Constitution for its “closely intertwined” connections to the country’s
Salafist circles. Despite pressure from the club since late 2016 to sever ties
with the Muslim charity, Ben-Hatira took to Facebook to disavow speculation of
the organization’s radical activities and the self-proclaimed “smear campaign” to sabotage his sports career. Peter Beuth,
interior minister of Hessen state, where Darmstadt is located, appropriately pointed out the conflict of interest between
one of its professional players and links to extremist organizations on the
radar of Germany’s security agency, which ultimately left the club no choice but
to part ways.
just five years ago by former German rapper Abdurahman Kayser, Dusseldorf-based Ansaar
International is a charity that touts its humanitarian assistance to Muslim widows, refugees and
children, as well as aid to those in Syria and other war zones. Yet, the
charity is simultaneously interlaced with Salafism, the most stringent,
ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam. German authorities credit this ideology
with the genesis of “almost all” of its country’s terror groups,
and separately cited an upsurge of known active Salafi-jihadists from 7,000 to 9,000 since late 2014. With these
statistics as a backdrop, Ben-Hatira’s sponsorship of a Salafist-centric
organization is understandably concerning to German authorities. Leaflets distributed by fans at a
recent game even called attention to Ansaar’s alleged “using [of] its resources
to finance terror groups in Syria”, echoing German authorities’ scrutiny of the
organization’s involvement in the war-torn country. Furthermore,
Burkhard Freier, head of domestic intelligence in Germany’s most populous state,
asserts the charity has been hosting events
with extremist preachers who incite members to join ISIS in Syria, emphasizing
just cause for Germany’s increased attention to this “charitable” organization
and its sympathizers.
“Bundesliga club Darmstadt have
released Tunisian midfielder Anis Ben-Hatira after he was revealed to have ties
to an organisation with alleged links to the radical Islamic Salafist scene.
Ben-Hatira has been criticised
for his work for Ansaar International — described by the Office for the
Protection of the Constitution in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as
"firmly interwoven in the German Salafist scene.
Salafism is an
ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam.The word 'Salafi' itself stems from
the Arabic phrase, 'as-salaf as-saliheen', which refers to the first three
generations of Muslims (starting with the Companions of the Prophet), otherwise
known as the Pious Predecessors."