In Austria, a 26-year-old Bosnian immigrant named Alen Rizvanović drove his SUV at high speed through the main shopping areas of Graz, Austria's second-largest city, and rammed into a crowd. He then got out of his vehicle and began stabbing bystanders with a large knife. The June 21 attack left three people dead and 34 others injured.
Police were quick to rule out a religious motive and insisted that the attack was a random act of violence perpetrated by a deranged killer, but a subsequent investigation found that Rizvanović was a devout Muslim with many links to radical Islam.
On June 16, the Criminal Court of Vienna found ten Muslims guilty of attempting to join the Islamic State in Syria. A Turkish man accused of organizing transportation for the group of nine native Chechens, aged between 17 and 27, received a three-year jail term, while others got prison terms of between 19 months and three years. The men were arrested by Austrian border police in August 2014 as they were attempting to travel to Syria via Turkey.
The convictions came just weeks after a 14-year-old Turkish boy who downloaded bomb-making plans onto his Playstation console was sentenced to two years' detention after pleading guilty to terrorism charges. The boy, who was living in Sankt Pölten in northeast Austria, had also established contacts with jihadists linked to the Islamic State. Sixteen months of the sentence were suspended. The boy will serve what remains of the eight-month term in a juvenile detention center.
More than 200 Austrian citizens and residents have joined jihadist groups in the Middle East; 30 have been killed and around 70 have returned.
In Belgium, police on June 8 carried out 21 coordinated raids of suspected Islamist militants, mostly of Chechen origin, in Antwerp, Bredene, Louvain, Namur and Ostend. Some of those investigated were known to have received jihadist training in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Syria, but police found no evidence to confirm suspicions that they were planning an attack. Initially, 16 people were arrested, but later, all but two were released.
In Brussels, Françoise Schepmans, the mayor of the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district of the capital, initiated dismissal proceedings against a police officer identified as Mohamed N. after he wrote in a debate on Facebook that he would kill "each and every Jew." Using the pseudonym Bebeto Gladiateur, the police officer wrote: "The word Jew itself is dirty. If I were in Israel, frankly, I would do to the Jews what they do with the Palestinians — slaughter each and every one of them." Schepmans said: "These statements shock me. I've never been ambiguous about those issues. I cannot accept that a municipal police officer has that attitude."
In Britain, a 22-year-old female refugee from Iraq was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for "twitter terrorism." Alaa Esayed, from Kennington, South London, was sentenced at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to encouraging terrorism and disseminating a terrorist publication. Between June 2013 and May 2014, she posted on an open account to her 8,240 followers more than 45,000 tweets in Arabic, many of them encouraging violent jihad. Her account, which included a profile image of a woman in a burka and holding a Kalashnikov, was listed by Al-Qaeda as among the 66 most important jihadi accounts.
In Manchester, 33-year-old Iqbal Ali of Oldham was sentenced to life in prison for using threats and violence to force four women to serve as his sex slaves in a harem. Ali, allegedly as part of a 14-year campaign to "sleep with as many women as possible," subjected the women to beatings, physical punishment and public humiliation if they disobeyed him. He was caught when one of the women received hospital treatment for severe neck injuries after she collapsed in a pharmacy.
In Lancashire, 34-year-old Mohammad Liaqat was sentenced to two years in prison after he stormed into the Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School in Accrington and attacked the headmaster over a dispute about the school's policy on beards. Liaqat said he was angered by the school's decision to ban two 14-year-old Muslim pupils from lessons because they refused to shave off their beards. Liaqat's own children were not involved in the case. He later turned up at the St. Oswald's RC Primary School, also in Lancashire, and attacked the principal there. Liaqat has been banned from having contact staff at four schools in the Accrington and Burnley areas.
More news about Islam in Britain during June 2015 can be found here.
In Cyprus, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides confirmed that a 26-year-old Lebanese-Canadian man — who was arrested after authorities found almost two tons of ammonium nitrate in his basement — was part of a Hezbollah bomb plot to attack Israeli and Jewish targets on the island. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the case was proof that Iran, which backs Hezbollah, continues to foment terrorism in the region.
In the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia canceled a scheduled Czech-Saudi economic forum to protest against alleged anti-Islam statements by Czech officials. Czech President Miloš Zeman has issued statements in which he linked Islam with violence. In remarks on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, the 70-year-old president said: "The Islamic State is similar in character to the Nazi Germany of the early 1930s. If we are to prevent a super Holocaust and massive slaughters of people, we need concerted military action... under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council."
The Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), refuted the allegations. It said:
"The Czech President's statements on Islam are in line with the statements the President made in the past, where he linked believers in the Quran with anti-Semitic and racist Nazis and said that the enemy is anti-civilization spreading from North Africa to Indonesia, where two billion people live.
"Such statements not only show President Zeman's lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of Islam, but also ignore the historical facts that anti-Semitism and Nazism are a European phenomenon through and through. They have no roots in Islam, neither as a religion nor as a history or civilization. The Holocaust did not take place in the area from North Africa to Indonesia."
President Zeman has refused to apologize for his statement. On June 28, he said: "If European countries accept a wave of migrants, there will be terrorists among them. ... By accepting the migrants, we strongly facilitate the Islamic State's expansion to Europe."
In Denmark, Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic group, told Muslims to boycott the June 18 general election because democracy is incompatible with Islam. In a press release, the group said:
"We are committed to being active participants in our society, but it has to be on Islam's terms, without compromising our own principles and values. Democracy is antithetical to Islam, and it is a sinking ship, even its own supporters lose increasingly confidence in the system and are looking for an alternative.
"The way forward for Muslims in Denmark is to resist the anti-Islamic integration policy and the aggressive foreign policy pursued by successive governments in this country. We must protect our Islamic identity and values as well as disseminate the message of Islam to the wider society around us in word and deed. We also have the duty to call for and support the global work for the restoration of the Caliphate, the Islamic solution to the myriad of problems that we Muslims are facing globally."
With all votes counted, a bloc of center-right parties led by former Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen ousted Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's center-left coalition. The anti-immigration Danish People's Party became the second-largest party in parliament. The election results reflect voters' growing frustration with multiculturalism, Danish asylum and refugee policies and runaway immigration from Muslim countries.
New statistics released by the Danish Immigration Service showed that 90% of all asylum applications have been approved so far in 2015. This is in stark contrast to 2004, when only 10% of such applications were approved.
In Copenhagen, the Islamic Society in Denmark began accepting donations for the construction of a third mega-mosque in the capital. The project is expected to cost 80 million kroner ($11.7 million) and construction could begin in 2017.
In France, former president Nicolas Sarkozy's opposition party — recently rebranded "The Republicans" — held a meeting on the question of "Islam in France or Islam of France" as part of a roundtable discussion on the "crisis of values" in France. Sarkozy said: "The question is not to know what the Republic can do for Islam, but what Islam can do to become the Islam of France."
Muslim groups criticized the meeting. "We cannot participate in an initiative like this that stigmatizes Muslims," said Abdallah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory on Islamophobia. The organizer of the meeting, MP Henri Guaino, said: "Can we not talk about subjects that split opinion? If you talk about immigration, you are a xenophobe. If you talk about security, you are a fascist. If you talk about Islam, you are an Islamophobe."
Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a half-day conference on relations with the Muslim community on June 15 that "Islam is here to stay." He also stressed that there is no link between Islam and extremism. "We must say all of this is not Islam," Valls said. "The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel ... the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism." The conference did not discuss radicalization because the issue was deemed to be too sensitive.
On June 28, Valls told iTele that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 salafists in France, and that 1,800 people were "linked" in some way to the Islamist cause. He said that the West was engaged in a "war against terrorism," adding: "We cannot lose this war because it is fundamentally a war of civilization. It is our society, our civilization that we are defending."
On June 6, Valls said that more than 850 French citizens or residents had travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq. More than 470 are still there and 110 are believed to have been killed on the battlefields.
On June 29, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that France has deported 40 imams for "preaching hatred" in the past three years. "We have deported 40 preachers of hatred since 2012," he said. "Since the beginning of the year we have examined 22 cases and around 10 imams and preachers of hatred have been expelled."
On June 7, Cazeneuve said that 113 French citizens or residents have died as jihadists on battlefields in the Middle East. There are 130 ongoing judicial proceedings concerning 650 persons related to terrorism, and 60 individuals have been banned from leaving the country.
In Lyon, Yassin Salhi, a 35-year-old father of three, confessed to beheading his boss and trying to blow up a chemical plant near the city. The severed head of his boss was found hanging on the fence of a site belonging to a US-based gas and chemicals company, next to two flags bearing the Muslim profession of faith. Salhi, a truck driver, was born in France to parents of Moroccan and Algerian descent. Before his arrest, Salhi took a picture of himself with the severed head and sent the image to a French jihadist fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. Salhi's wife said: "We are normal Muslims. We do Ramadan."
In Bordeaux, the De L'Orient à L'Occidental grocery store, whose owners recently converted to Islam, scrapped a "gender ban" after facing a barrage of criticism. In an effort to ensure that males and females did not come into contact with each other at the store, the owners attempted to ban women from shopping on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and to ban men on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
In Paris, the Administrative Court on June 23 rejected a case brought by a mother trying to sue the French government for failing to stop her teenage son from leaving to join jihadists in Syria. The boy was 16 when he left with three others from the southern French city of Nice in December 2013, taking a plane to Turkey and then traveling overland to Syria. His mother, identified only as Nadine A., argued that airport police in Nice should have stopped the boy because he had only a one-way ticket and no baggage. But the court ruled that the airport officers were not responsible, and it rejected her demand for €110,000 ($120,000) in compensation.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen members of Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), a group formed to defend Muslims against Islamophobia, went on trial in Paris on June 7 for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. The group — formed in August 2010 by a 37-year-old Franco-Tunisian, Mohamed Achamlane, who refers to himself as "Emir" — put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all Muslim-majority countries. The message said: "If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against Muslims."
Achamlane also released videos of himself giving inflammatory speeches, using phrases such as, "By all-powerful Allah, we will put scars on France." The group also issued a list of "targets" including Jewish shops in the Paris region. In court, Achamlane said: "There is no radical or moderate Islam. There is only authentic Islam." The government described the group as a private militia, but the 15 members of the group denied that they were members of a terrorist group. If convicted, each member of the group faces up to ten years in prison.
In Germany, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, in an interview with the newspaper Rheinische Post, said that the number of German jihadists fighting in Syria has risen to around 700. "The number has never been as high as it is now," he said. The number of violent Islamists in Germany who are "prepared to commit politically motivated crimes of considerable importance" was around 330. He said there are more than 500 ongoing counter-terrorism operations involving 800 Islamists.
Meanwhile, a debate erupted over whether Muslim students should be exempted from mandatory visits to former concentration camps as part of Holocaust education programs. The dispute centered on a proposal that would require students in all secondary schools in the southern state of Bavaria to visit Holocaust memorials as part of the school curriculum.
The proposal was opposed by the governing Christian Social Union, which said that "many children from Muslim families... have no connection to our past and... will need much more time before they can identify with our history. We need to be careful about how we address this issue with these children."
Also in Bavaria, the administrators of the Wilhelm-Diess-Gymnasium, a school in Pocking, warned parents not to let their daughters wear revealing clothing in order to avoid "misunderstandings" with the 200 Muslim refugees housed in emergency accommodations in a building next to the school. The letter said:
"The Syrian citizens are mainly Muslim and speak Arabic. The refugees have their own culture. Because our school is directly next to where they are staying, modest clothing should be worn in order to avoid disagreements. Revealing tops or blouses, short shorts or miniskirts could lead to misunderstandings."
A local politician quoted by Die Welt newspaper said:
"When Muslim teenage boys go to open air swimming pools, they are overwhelmed when they see girls in bikinis. These boys, who come from a culture where for women it is frowned upon to show naked skin, will follow girls and bother them without their realizing it. Naturally, this generates fear."
In Berlin's Neukölln district, a 26-year-old Muslim woman was allowed to begin an internship as a junior lawyer in the town hall. Local authorities had initially considered rejecting Betül Ulusoy's application because she insisted on wearing a Muslim headscarf. Berlin's neutrality law (Neutralitätsgesetz) stipulates that anyone who works for the city is prohibited from showing outward signs of religiosity. But city officials made an exception for Ulusoy, apparently in order to avoid being accused of Islamophobia.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch parliament voted against allowing MP Geert Wilders to stage an exhibition of American cartoons based on the Prophet Mohammed. Wilders said he was disappointed in the parliament's decision and pledged to show the cartoons during a television party political broadcast. But the national public broadcasting company NPO failed to air the video as planned. Wilders accused NPO of sabotage. On June 24, Wilders' video was finally aired on Dutch public television.
Also in June, Social Affairs Minister Lodewijk Asscher said that he was considering a plan that would require Turkish imams to take a course in the Dutch language and culture before they are allowed to move to the Netherlands. Such a course would "lay the foundations for successful integration," Asscher said. Yassin Elforkani from the Muslim lobby group CMO, which claims to represent nearly 400 mosques in the Netherlands, said that rather than "continually importing" imams from Turkey, the Netherlands should establish an indigenous imam training program similar to the one in Germany.
Meanwhile, a court in Rotterdam sentenced a 22-year-old man from Delft to four years in prison for planning to use the proceeds of an armed robbery to support jihadists in Syria. Police, who were tipped off by an informant, arrested Mohammed A. while he was on his way to carry out an armed robbery in Scheveningen. They found three guns in his car. The court ruled that Mohammed A. was guilty of a "serious terrorism offense" because he was planning to use the proceeds from the robbery to support violent jihad.
In Norway, the Police Security Service (PST) revealed that nearly a dozen refugees sent to Norway under the UN's quota system turned out to have close links to the terror groups Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front. Police also discovered that some refugees had backgrounds in Syria's secret police, and others were suspected of carrying out war crimes during the country's ongoing civil war.
The newspaper Dagbladet also reported that Islamic extremists are scouting refugee reception centers in Norway in search of new recruits for terrorism. According to the paper, several people who received asylum in Norway later became central figures in the country's radicalized Islamic community.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of Norwegians are converting to Islam, apparently because of a perceived need for stronger rules in Norway's liberal society. "Converting to Islam is perhaps the most extreme form of youthful rebellion today," Muslim convert and religion professor Anne Sofie Roald told the newspaper Aftenposten. She said she thinks conservative Islam represents clear limits and a new form of security in Norway's "anything goes" society.
In Spain, police arrested three young Frenchmen after they were caught driving a Mercedes at 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), almost twice the 120 km/h legal speed limit, on the AP-7 motorway through the southern province of Valencia. Police found €200,000 ($219,000) in cash stuffed in a duffel bag in the car's trunk; none of the three men was able to explain the provenance of the cash. A subsequent investigation found that one of the three men was being monitored by French authorities on suspicion that he had been recruited by the Islamic State and was preparing to leave for Syria.
On June 22, the trial of Nabil Benkaddour, a Moroccan who attempted to join the Islamic State in Syria, began at the High Court in Madrid. Benkaddour was arrested the southern Spanish region of Murcia in November 2014 after he tried to travel to Syria via Turkey. He was not allowed to board the plane, however, because he did not have a return ticket. Spanish police later discovered that Benkaddour had been "very active on radical jihadist forums on the Internet" and had broadcast videos used for jihadist indoctrination and recruitment. He had also posted a photograph of his three-year-old son holding a toy rifle, along with images of various terrorist leaders, with the message: "You have chosen the path of Jihad and we will follow it." Benkaddour faces two years in prison if the court finds him guilty of "glorifying terrorism."
In Sweden, police arrested two people in raids in Stockholm and provincial city of Orebro on June 1 as part of a crackdown on the recruitment of young men to fight with jihadists groups abroad. The Swedish Security Police (SAPO) said Orebro, a city of 140,000 people, has become the fourth largest Swedish source of recruits for Islamist groups after Malmo, Gothenburg and Stockholm. According to SAPO, about 300 Swedish nationals or residents are believed to have joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Around 35 of these have been killed and 80 have returned to Sweden.
On June 17, the Swedish government announced that it was contemplating drafting a new law that would ban its nationals from fighting with jihadist groups such as the Islamic State. "It is unacceptable that Swedish citizens are travelling to join the Islamic State, financing the group or fighting for it," Justice Minister Morgan Johansson and Interior Minister Anders Ygeman wrote in an article published by the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
More news about Islam in Sweden during June 2015 can be found here.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.