The Blue Mosque at the Outer Alster lake in Germany’s city of Hamburg is a noble address. Right across from the rowing club, the street is named “Schöne Aussicht”, “Picturesque View” in English. This Imam Ali Mosque, its official name, is the seat of the Islamic Center Hamburg, IZH in short. “60 years of dialogue and friendship”, it says on a poster in the showcase, but the times are not that harmonious.
Last weekend, strangers smeared the blue facade with blobs of red paint and characters, apparently including slogans such as “Shame on Islam”. Representatives of the mosque speak of “anti-Muslim agitation” and recall what they define “the tendentious reporting of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution”. Because recently, the authority presented new findings about the Islamic Center Hamburg, which has been in their focus for a long time.
For years, constitutional protection officials have been reporting on the IHZ, called it the “outpost of the Iranian regime” by the Hamburg state office. It is directed “against the free democratic order as well as against the idea of international understanding”, but appears “not openly recognizable Islamist” and only stages itself as a meeting place. Now the state office is writing that the IHZ is “an outpost of Tehran, bound by instructions” and that documents prove that.
Iran sees itself as the protective and leading power of the estimated 160 to 210 million Shiites worldwide. The regime systematically uses cultural and religious institutions to spread its beliefs and the ideology of the Islamic Republic. This includes the principle of the rule of the legal scholar (Velajat-e Faqih) developed by the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, which puts the highest state authority in the hands of the clerics and derives their claim to rule from Islam. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the IZH fulfills this function as “an important propaganda center” for Iran in Europe.
According to the Federal Office’s assessment, the center reports directly to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is bound by his instructions. Khamenei has the last word on all important political questions and provides the ideological orientation, which includes denying Israel the right to exist and opposing the West under the leadership of the US. In some countries, Iran’s secret services have infiltrated Tehran-controlled religious and cultural networks and used them for their own purposes. There is no corresponding evidence for the IZH. In general, however, intelligence services in Europe are observing increased activities by both the Iranian secret service and corresponding agencies of the Revolutionary Guard, the elite of the Iranian military, which extend to preparations for attacks on opponents of the regime.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the Imam Ali Mosque, aka Blue Mosque, was built in Hamburg, financed by Iranian business people in the Hanseatic city, where many Iranians live. According to the Hamburg State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the current head of the IZH, Muhammad Mofatteh, is also addressed in official letters from the Iranian government as a “representative of the Supreme Leader, head of the Islamic Center”. The state office also recognizes connections between the IZH and Hezbollah, which has been completely banned in Germany since 2020.
In addition, the IZH publishes books such as Khomeini’s “The Islamic State”, which subjects state action to Sharia law and which is “in diametrical opposition” to the German constitution. The State Office cites passages from it that deal with punishments such as stoning and lashes, hatred against Israel and the departure from democracy and Western values. The intelligence agencies also point to the numerous executions of homosexual men in Iran.
Hamburg’s conservative and right-populist parties like CDU and AfD demanded that the state treaty with the Muslim associations be suspended because of an anti-Semitic demo in June; the Islamic Council Shura spoke of “Islamophobic agitation”. Shura and IZH are said not to have participated in the rally. The IZH Imam Mofatteh stated in a statement in July that the new findings of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution were irrelevant and untrue, that the IHZ had “never pursued state-political goals”. The Shura assists, the IZH is religious, not political. “The findings of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution,” said the Social Democrat spokesman for religious policy Ekkehard Wysocki in the Hamburger Abendblatt, “go in the other direction.”