Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Evolving Terrorist Profile in Europe: Homegrown, Middle Class

Letter from Europe: Local terrorism suspects puzzle Germany

By Katrin Bennhold
International Herald Tribune
September 12, 2007

NEUNKIRCHEN, Germany: 'He could have been in my class," said Johannes Richter, his brow furrowed as he studied the blurry photograph of Daniel Martin Schneider, the youngest of the three terrorism suspects arrested in Germany last week. Both men grew up in this provincial western German town. Both are 22 years old.

What fascinates and deeply disturbs Germans is that two of the three suspects detained in the alleged plot to bomb U.S. installations are pretty much like them - ordinary Germans, not immigrants from another continent or people of foreign heritage. The third man arrested is a Turkish resident of Germany.

Like thousands of other young Germans, Schneider and the other German suspect, Fritz Gelowicz, 28, grew up in middle-class Christian homes and went to high schools in sleepy suburban neighborhoods.

"It gives the concept of homegrown terrorism a new quality," said Rolf Tophoven, head of the German Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy. "Every German family relates to their background in some way."

Britain was stunned two years ago when it emerged that the mastermind behind the suicide bombings in London that killed 52 people was a British-born man of Pakistani origin who spoke with a cockney accent and appeared to be well-integrated in his local community.

But, as sociologists point out, the fact that he had a foreign-sounding name and darker skin allowed white Europeans to preserve a distance between their experience and his.

That buffer is now gone in Germany. A mix of fear and unease was evident in dozens of conversations with ordinary Germans - a pervasive unease because they must ask themselves how an ordinary German upbringing can nourish such hatred.

"It's a wake-up call for Germany," said Hajo Funke, professor of politics at the Free University of Berlin. "There is no margin left for abstraction or scapegoating. Our society, our civilization has produced these young people. They were corrupted by a foreign ideology, but that ideology filled a vacuum we left." ...


No comments: