Rüdiger, German FA take legal action over ISIS-support claim

Germany defender Antonio Rüdiger and the German Football Association (DFB) are taking legal action against a disgraced former tabloid editor for suggesting the player’s Ramadan greeting was a show of support for terrorist group Islamic State.

Rüdiger, a practicing Muslim, posted on Instagram a photo of himself in a white robe kneeling on a prayer mat while pointing upward with his right index finger.

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“Ramadan Mubarak to all Muslims around the world. May the almighty accept our fasting and prayers. #AlwaysBelieve,” the Real Madrid player wrote.

Former Bild chief editor Julian Reichelt responded on X, formerly Twitter, with a series of posts accusing the player of “Islamism” and of showing the “ISIS-greeting of Islamists,” using another term to refer to Islamic State.

Reichelt still enjoys a large following on social media despite being fired from Bild in 2021 amid allegations of bullying and abuse of female staff at the tabloid. He has since set up his own online media start-up, where he also accused Rüdiger of showing “the Islamist greeting that the whole world has known since ISIS terrorists’ horror.”

The DFB on Tuesday told The Associated Press that it initiated legal proceedings against Reichelt, whom it accused of online hate speech.

Rüdiger’s management also made a complaint on behalf of the player. News agency dpa reported the complaint charged Reichelt with insult or slander, inflammatory insult and sedition. The player himself did not want to comment on the matter.

Responding to dpa, Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior said of Rüdiger’s gesture: “The so-called ‘tawhid’ finger is considered a symbol of the unity and uniqueness of God in Islam. The gesture is common among Muslims all over the world.”

The ministry said the gesture should be not be classified as problematic.

“This applies regardless of the fact that Islamist groups appropriate this symbol and misuse it for their own purposes,” the ministry said.