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The Islamic Center Hamburg (IZH) and Radical Shia Networks in Germany

When Islamism is talked about in Germany, Sunni-Islamists are usually the subject of conversation (e.g. Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS). Despite this understandable focus, other dangerous groups and actors should not be forgotten. So called “legalistic Islamists” present themselves as respectable partners but are no less dangerous for democracy. The Islamic Center of Hamburg (IZH) is a central actor within the Shia-Islamists scene in Germany. As early as its founding in the 1960’s, Iran was actively supporting the center through donations from businessmen and closely coordinating with the religious elite. The deep ties between Teheran and Hamburg is exemplified by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Khamati, who, after serving as Chairman of the IZH, became President of Iran in 1997. In fact, the head of the IZH is always nominated by the Supreme Leader of Iran.

According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the IZH is Iran’s most important representative body in Europe. Security agencies in Hamburg and the Federal Government have warned for decades of the dangers the IZH poses. There is no doubt that the IZH strives to spread the antisemitic, islamistic, homophobic, and mysoginistic state doctrine of Iran throughout Germany and the EU. According to the Hamburg State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the IZH is not only led by representatives of the Iranian regime, but financed by Tehran as well. In a 2004 report commissioned by the German federal government, the IZH is called the “Field Office of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Hamburg State Office for the Protection of the Constitution came to the following conclusion in its 2016 report on the IZH: “Pro-Iranian institutions in Germany are fundamentally assessed to be instruments of the Iranian government. They represent a system of values that is incompatible with our basic democratic order."

Members of the IZH have also participated in Al-Quds Day in Berlin. During the demonstrations, Israel’s extermination is openly called for. In January 2020, a remembrance ceremony for war criminal and mass murderer Qassam Someimani was held. Iranian opposition figures are threatened and intimidated by the IZH. It is also a meeting spot of Hezbollah supporters in Hamburg, according to the BfV’s yearly report. Despite these incidents, German state institutions cooperate with the IZH, resulting in, for example, representatives of the Islamist regime in Iran having influence on Islamic school books in Hamburg. This could, taking into account the regime’s gender apartheid and compulsory wearing of headscarves, have devastating effects for young girls and women. If state institutions and officials want to take combating antisemitism seriously, cooperation with the IZH -- funded by a regime that reguarlly calls for the murder of Jews worldwide --  is not possible. The German Federal Government considers continuous monitoring of the IZH by BfV authorities to be a necessity.