Up until maybe three years ago....no one much in Germany had ever heard of a Salafist. If you'd tested a hundred Germans on the street....maybe one knew the meaning of the word. Today? Somewhere probably between twenty and forty percent of German adults have heard the word and will give you some type of definition.
The simplest of definitions is......a Muslim-enthusiast who quietly recruits among the weak-minded, the naive, and those lacking maturity. They work at several levels. They'd like to convert you from being a marginal Muslim to one with absolute devotion to the religion. They'd also like to convert you into the jihadist guy or gal who'd go off to Syria to fight the glorious war for Islam and support ISIS. And finally, they'd like to recruit the crowd for terrorist-like actions against western nations which means you need to give up your life entirely and be suicide-minded.
Germany has a a fair number of Salafist guys working various angles. The government will cite different numbers.....so you generally work with a thousand such characters as a minimum.
Oddly, most all of them are connected to some Mosque operation, Islamic charity group, or Islamic support activity. They greet people...they recite verses from the Koran....they act normal in every possible way. Then they walk out and quietly greet a couple of young guys....chat over soccer....talk about the great war in Syria....and occasionally throw in comments that Muhammad said or might have said in terms of supporting the 'cause'.
Being a non-German.....I look at the recruitment angle from an American prospective. It's like any religious group in the US that attempts to persuade or encounter new prospective 'players'. An older or more mature person will ask stupid questions and it's worthless to recruit among them. Older people have property, obligations, debt, and relationships that matter.....they usually aren't willing to do something really stupid. So, the Salafist folks have a gimmick to their recruitment drive.
It's taken a while for Germans to grasp all of this and realize that these people at the edge of the Salafist recruitment circle....aren't likely to talk about these recruitment efforts or attempts with their parents or older relatives. Parents are shocked when they suddenly discover that junior packed up and left for Syria and the war. The same parents ask stupid questions and try to figure out who did the Salafist angle on their son.....but they never come to any conclusion.
In most cultures.....parents and clans would come together and figure some blame, and go after the guy involved. Oddly, this doesn't happen within a Muslim society or a community situation within Germany. It falls into the category that a man of respect exists within this shadow of the Salafist player.....he's untouchable. A Russian....a German....an American....a Brit....they'd all come to some physical violence if this was their son and some religious thug group had recruited them.
What the German government is putting effort into....is simply to build a localized organization where someone can turn to....note the behavior of some relative or son has changed, and someone with physiological skills will go and have an open chat with the person. In some ways, they are challenging the kid to ask stupid questions. Maybe he'll accept that challenge.
The new incoming refugee crowd to Germany? Well, there is some belief that they will become fresh opportunities for the Salafists. Some new arrivals have already observed the behavior and introductions being made by the Salafists.
You would think that someone out there would make a simple 90-minute movie and demonstrate three simple Islamic youths and how they each met up with Salafists and how each fell into the trap. Most societies and cultures would have no problem in making such a movie. Here in Germany? Nothing. It's almost like it's a forbidden idea and you can't point fingers. Maybe there's fear that common Germans will start to fear Islam even more if they understand Salafists. Maybe there's some fear that they will offend Muslims. The problem though....is that they have all these young people, with naive minds and easily recruited to do stupid things.
So, when you hear the term Salafists.....just remember.....they are anything but naive or innocent in their intentions.