We had just reached the home of our German friend in Bordesholm, a small town in the Schleswig Holstein in the district Rendsburg-Eckernförde, when I started receiving messages from friends and family about my safety. Apparently there had been a shooting in a shopping mall in Munich. I was far away from the scene of incident I assured everyone. Munich is in Bavaria in the South at a distance of nearly 900 km by road from Bordesholm. I then shared the information with our German host, who was taken by surprise. He became concerned about a Pakistani boy in Munich, whose welfare was close to his heart. He immediately rang him up to check about his whereabouts. The young man had left his office but was now stranded on the street. There was a lockdown in Munich. All public transport services had been suspended and taxis if available were not willing to give him a ride. Don’t stay in the open; the kindly German advised his charge. Go to a hotel and stay there until the situation becomes clear. Sometime later the Pakistani boy called back to inform his mentor that the hotel had refused him a room. He was agitated because he thought the reason for not getting the room was the color of his skin and his obvious ethnicity. The German friend started working on his phone. He began calling up his relatives in the area but unfortunately none was available. To everybody’s relief, a Russian colleague of the boy came to his rescue and took him to his apartment. The entire episode left the boy confused and angry. Through the dint of his hard work he had worked his way up the system and considered himself a responsible member of the society. He expected recognition and not rejection. He thought the Germans were over reacting and was unwilling to understand the German fears.
This episode unfolding before me was disturbing to say the least. Lately, there had been a spate of incidents in Europe and North America in which fringe lunatics bearing Muslim names had gone on a killing spree. Most of them had been second generation progeny of immigrants, who had been misfits in the adopted homelands of their parents. They had not been practicing Muslims, had criminal records or were suffering from psychological problems. Only in the case the Afghan teenager, who had attacked passengers in a passenger train with an axe in Wurzburg, had been a recent refugee. Unconfirmed evidence would always suggest that the attacker had shouted Allahu Akbar before he ran amok. The IS had been quick to own up the attacks and the politicians in the US and Europe had raised concern about the threat that militant Islam posed to their open societies. This time too messages started pouring in from the Whitehouse and all over the world condemning this act of terrorism. For those of us coming from Islamic countries, such incidents put us, in a very painful and embarrassing position. Defending our faith and trying to distance ourselves from the act of a crackpot is more often than not met with skepticism.
Back to the incident in the Olympia Mall in Munich, after the usual statements by national and international leaders vowing to make their societies safe and the freedoms intact, a strange silence descended on the media. As bits and pieces of information started trickling in, it transpired that the attacker was a German-Iranian teenager, with a disturbed past and with no connection to any terrorist group. In fact his role model was the unrepentant Norwegian white supremacist Anders Behring Breivik, who had killed nearly eighty people in 2011. The boy, who the police had now started identifying as David S. had converted to Christianity and was mentally disturbed. He had actually killed Turks, Kosovars and Greeks by luring them to a free meal in a MacDonald’s fast food café in the mall. Next day there was no front page news of the incident. It appeared as if nothing had happened at all. There had been reports of shootout in a mall in Cologne about a month back and this news had also fizzled out.
There are some lessons from the Munich shooting. There are problems of integration among second and third generation immigrants. The state and immigrant communities have to join hands to work together towards resolving this issue. There is a need for a very stringent gun control so that everybody cannot lay hands on weapons without due diligence by state authorities. The international media needs to play a positive role by not creating an anti-Muslim hype, whenever a shooting incident takes place. This only gives free publicity to militant organizations like the IS to take credit and add this to their log book. The killers are always mentally disturbed people and this is one reason that they are easily seduced by those preaching violent ideologies.