ONCE again, terror has reared its ugly head in the Western world, as a gunman opened fire on two sheesha lounges in the German city of Hanau on Wednesday, killing at least nine people, a number of whom were of Kurdish descent. The locations the gunman targeted, as well his apparent motives, means that the attack is being treated as an act of far-right terrorism. One Kurdish journalist, a political refugee living in Germany, told news outlets that he was shocked, but not surprised — a statement echoed by many others. Indeed, only a few days ago, German police conducted multiple raids in an attempt to break up a vast far-right network that had been planning attacks on Muslims, asylum seekers and politicians in order to ‘incite’ civil war. On Monday, thousands attended an anti-Islam protest in Dresden. And earlier this month, a state premier was elected with the support of the racist Alternative for Germany party for the first time in the country’s modern history. In the past few years, a wave of outright xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia has swept across Europe, but perhaps nowhere is its presence more chilling than in Germany — a country that is once again haunted by the spectres of its dark past.
The tragedy also sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage, as vigils were held across Germany while the embattled Merkel government sought to condemn the politics that inspired Wednesday’s attack in the strongest terms. But it will take more than condemnation to stem this far-right tide. What Germany and other Western democracies need now is serious introspection on the ways in which the hateful ideology of white supremacy has been indulged and mainstreamed by politicians, government policies and the media alike. It requires the international community to interrogate the role that the global ‘war on terror’ has had in defining today’s iterations of terrorism. It is no coincidence that the gruesome scenes from Abu Ghraib were used by Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group to recruit disaffected Muslim youth, which in turn led to attacks in the West that have gone on to radicalise disillusioned white men. The two ideologies enjoy a symbiotic relationship, and it is only if the world recalibrates its counterterrorism strategy, abandoning counterproductive policies like racial profiling, that we might triumph over both. Ultimately, the fight against hate is a universal issue.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020