From Legal Threats to Death Threats: Zahid Khan’s Ongoing Encounters with Militant Islam
by ANDREW E. HARROD
August 31, 2012
A previous Family Security Matters (FSM) article described the successful legal defense in Germany of the right to publish a book sharply critical of Islam and its prophet Muhammad by the Pakistani-German writer and self-proclaimed "prophet" Zahid Khan. As a current investigation by the Darmstadt, Germany, prosecutor's office shows, though, opponents of Islam like Khan are often subject to various attacks both within and without the legal system. Khan's continuing story offers an interesting example of the various interrelated threats against free speech posed by militant Islam in Germany and elsewhere.
As the local Darmstadt Echo newspaper reported on August 23, 2012 (subscription required), prosecutors there have initiated investigations into whether two prominent members of Germany's militant-orthodox Islamist scene (Salafists, as they are known in Germany and elsewhere) formed a conspiracy to commit a crime (Verabredung zu einem Verbrechen). The "crown witness" for the authorities' investigation is none other than Stefan Salim Nagi, the very German convert to Islam described in the prior FSM story about Khan who sought to ban his self-published book Die Verbrechen des Propheten Mohammed (English edition, The Criminal Acts of Prophet Muhammad).
As the Echo reported on July 18, 2012 (subscription required), Nagi's complaint that Khan's book violated Nagi's personal rights required only a few minutes of trial and deliberation on June 26, 2012, before the judges of a civil court in Darmstadt dismissed the case. As the presiding judge Hans Schubert explained, Khan's book did not even mention Nagi. Nonetheless, Nagi has announced an intention to appeal the Darmstadt court decision.
Nagi's efforts to bring about a mass protest movement in conjunction with his legal complaint were equally unsuccessful, even though Nagi stated to the Echo that he personally distributed 80,000 flyers in the area around the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers in the German province of Hesse. Instead of the several thousand Muslims protesters desired by Nagi, only about two dozen came before the Darmstadt courthouse the day of the legal proceedings against Khan.
As the Echo reported in July, though, Nagi stated to the newspaper that his protest preparations brought him into contact with Salafist leaders. Seeking well-known personalities for his protest, Nagi contacted in November 2011 the prominent Salafist speaker and propagandist Pierre Vogel, a former boxer and, like Nagi, a German convert to Islam. An assistant to Vogel answered Nagi's telephone call with an email in which Vogel agreed to appear at the Darmstadt court demonstration provided that Nagi deposit 30,000 Euros in Vogel's account.
Nothing new developed in the matter until Nagi drove to Cologne at the beginning of June 2012 to contact Vogel personally at a public event. In words cited by Nagi to the Echo, Vogel supposedly stated, "Brother Stefan Salim, we sent you an email that you should place 30,000 Euros on the table. When you have done this, then I will come to Darmstadt. And I know people from Dietzenbach who will kill the pig Zahid Khan for money." Without the money, however, Vogel rejected coming to Darmstadt. Nagi claimed to the Echo that two other witnesses are willing to testify to the prosecutor's office about this statement provided that they receive protection. Vogel, in turn has rejected Nagi's allegations in an internet video as "utter idiocy [Oberschwachsinn]."
Nagi had also contacted the Palestinian Salafist preacher Ibrahim Abou-Nagie shortly before the encounter with Vogel. Abou-Nagie attained national attention in Germany in spring 2012 with the mass distribution of free Korans, an action in which Nagi had participated. Although Nagi thought that this assistance would leave a favorable impression upon Abou-Nagie, he proved to be just as unhelpful during a conversation with Nagi at an information booth in Offenbach, Germany.
Like Vogel, Abou-Nagie demanded 30,000 Euros. Recounting Nagi's arguments with Abou-Nagie to the Echo, Nagi cites him stating that: "We are going to send you a pair of our people who are going to kill this pig Khan. If he says these insults against our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, he should not remain alive any longer." According to Nagi, Abou-Nagie finally ended the conversation with: "No more discussion, brother. Sooner or later our people are going to kill him anyway, but if you give 30,000 Euros we will do it right away." Nagi claims that another witness is willing to testify to Abou-Nagie's statements before state prosecutors.
The Echo quotes Nagi declaring that he rejects the "criminal expressions" of Vogel, who has preached nonviolence in public, and Abou-Nagie, whom Nagi describes as "not honest people" who "make their dirty business in the name of Islam." Nagi claims to restrict his opposition to insults against Islam and its prophet to legal means.
The Echo's July 2012 reporting of Nagi's claims led to a three-hour interrogation of him by the Darmstadt state prosecutor's office in the week before the August 23, 2012, story. Because in recent days Nagi has received several anonymous death threats, he, like Khan (and his wife and four children), now lives under police protection. Speaking to the Echo of such threats, including ones previously rumored to come from Vogel, Khan states that the "internet is full of threats against me. The fear is there." Yet Khan considers his police protection good.
Khan's story shows once again that those who challenge Islam often face a wide range of threats from militant Muslims unwilling to deal with criticism and condemnation of Islam in debate and dialogue. It is to be hoped, meanwhile, that Nagi's falling out with fellow, more militant Muslims will make him reconsider whether the views of individuals like Khan are completely without merit and unworthy of hearing. As for Khan, he intends to publish a new book in a few weeks. Referencing a debate unleashed by a statement of the former German federal president Christian Wulff in his October 3, 2010, speech on the 20th anniversary of German unification indicating that "Islam belongs to Germany [Der Islam gehört zu Deutschland]", the Pakistani immigrant Khan intends to title his work Der Islam gehört nicht zu Deutschland (Islam Does not Belong to Germany).
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar. He has published various pieces concerning an Islamic supremacist agenda at the Middle East Forum's Legal Project, American Thinker, and Faith Freedom International.