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People put flowers and candles near the Midnight Shiha Bar for the victims of the recent shooting on February 21, 2020 in Hanau, Germany. (Photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

People put flowers and candles near the Midnight Shiha Bar for the victims of the recent shooting on February 21, 2020 in Hanau, Germany. (Photo: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

White Terrorism Targeting Innocent Muslims in Germany Is Not Termed "Terrorism"

It is no accident that the shooter idolized Donald J. Trump, one of the world’s most vocal purveyors of hatred toward Muslims.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

On Thursday, a racist extremist went to two shisha bars in Hanau, Germany, randomly shooting the people there. Since smoking hookah is a Middle Eastern custom, he clearly thought he could be sure of killing Muslims at these establishments. He killed a pregnant woman and bar staff, leaving at least ten dead (including the shooter and his mother once he got back home).

The shooter had a racist manifesto and in YouTube spots accused US president Donald Trump of stealing his ideas.

He is symptomatic of the widespread rise of hatred and racism in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel minced no words. “Hate is a poison, racism is a poison,” she said. She pledged to fight those attempting to divide Germany with all her strength. In this statement she is clearly including Muslim Germans in the nation, a way of speaking some German politicians have avoided.

The Hanau shooter certainly committed an act of terror, but only a few media outlets used that diction.

Tim Schulze writes at Stern that the far right AfD attempted to sidestep the ways in which the murders were impelled by the hateful rhetoric of their own followers by claiming that the perpetrator was just a madman with no politics, neither left nor right.

There were only 128 attempted, foiled or successful terrorist attacks in the European Union in 2018. The majority, 83, were attempted or carried out by ethnonationalist and separatist groups. Another 19 were by far left groups. All in all, 82% of the attacks were plotted or completed by these groups. Some 24 were by radical Muslims. Since there are 19 million Muslims in the European Union, tagging all these millions of ordinary people with “terrorism” because of 24 attempted or actual attacks is clearly a vast miscarriage of justice. Almost all the 19 million are law-abiding, hard-working citizens.

But all Muslims are being repeatedly stereotyped by the European press and some politicians as violent or prone to terrorism.

It is this constant drumbeat of hatred for Muslims that set off the Hanau shooter. Nor is it any accident that the shooter idolized Donald J. Trump, one of the world’s most vocal purveyors of hatred toward Muslims.

The Hanau shooter certainly committed an act of terror, but only a few media outlets used that diction. CNN called it a “far right attack.” Voice of America spoke of “far right extremism.”

Only the BBC asked, “Has Germany done enough to tackle far-right terror threat?”

German Federal prosecutors, however, are not as chary of the word as most of the press. They are investigating the Hanau shooting on suspicion of terrorism..


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

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