Racists and right wing politicians have seized on a series of deadly attacks in Germany to attack the “culture of welcome” for refugees.
A rejected Syrian asylum seeker let off a bomb near a music festival in Ansbach in the state of Bavaria on Sunday. He killed himself and injured 12 others.
Bavarian Tory interior minister Joachim Herrmann said the next day, “It is very obvious that there has been a real Islamist suicide attack here. The obvious intent to kill more people at least indicates an Islamist background.”
Police pointed out that this was “pure speculation”. Hermann also pledged to push for tougher deportation rules.
The perpetrator had been denied asylum a year ago, but was not deported back to Syria due to its civil war. He had been set for deportation to Bulgaria.
The bombing was the fourth high-profile attack in Germany in less than a week. Several involved refugees, but these attacks had little in common.
An Afghan asylum seeker who arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied minor wounded five people on a train last Monday. He shouted “Allahu Akbar” and allegedly had a handpainted Isis flag in his room.
Then a Syrian asylum seeker killed a woman with a machete on Sunday. Police said he appeared to have known his victim, and there was no link to terror.
By far the worst attack was a shooting spree that killed nine people—mostly teenagers—in the Bavarian city of Munich last Friday.
But it caught out those who jumped on it to stir up Islamophobia.
Maximilian Krah, a politician in the conservative CDU party in Munich, said, “This must be a turning point.
“The culture of welcome is deadly. This is about our country!”
But the killer, David Ali Sonboly, grew up in Germany and targeted victims of Arabic or Turkish descent. When someone shouted at him “fucking foreigner” he responded “I am German”.
Sonboly had a book and a reported fixation on mass school shootings in the US. It follows similar mass shootings in Germany in 2009 and 2002.
He also had a fixation on fascist murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people on the Norwegian island of Utoya in 2011.
He set his profile picture on an online messaging service to Breivik’s photo, and timed his attack for the anniversary of the Utoya massacre.
The Munich branch of left party Die Linke condemned xenophobia in a statement.
Die Linke chair Bernd Riexinger slammed German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere as an “irreverent opportunist” for putting soldiers on the streets. “Therapists and educators prevent shooting sprees—not soldiers,” he tweeted.
What really lies behind the violence?
The factors that drive people to violence and desperation are complex. But they are rooted in a capitalist society that is deeply alienating and permeated by racism.
The Ansbach bomber was already known to police for several suicide attempts and drug use.
He now faced the threat of imminent deportation.
Sonboly, of Iranian origin, was reportedly made insecure about his heritage.
The attacker on the train spent his childhood in a country made a warzone by the West’s invasion.
Millions of ordinary Germans have actively welcomed refugees.
But there is also widespread racism including Islamophobic marches and arson attacks on refugee shelters.
European Union policies have forced refugees to risk their lives travelling to Europe.
These policies often leave them deep in debt to ruthless traffickers.
More scapegoating and policing will only make things worse.
We must stand firm and united against those who try to turn tragedy into racism.
Merkel is no friend of refugees
German chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative government is playing a double game.
Faced with the mass movement of refugees and widespread public sympathy last year, Merkel took the tactical decision to let them in.
Merkel has since faced repeated calls to resign from the racist right.
Yet Merkel is no friend of refugees.
After years as one of the key figures in Fortress Europe, she is now trying to make sure that last year’s arrivals are a one-off.
And faced with electoral challenges from the far right AfD party she has made concessions to the racists.
For example she has agreed that “In part, the refugee flow was even used to smuggle terrorists.”