Berlin Attack is a Test of German Patience

12 dead and 48 injured on the eve of Christmas, and a Tunisian is a suspect

Analysts are still amazed that a truck, used to carry goods, can be transformed into a weapon by Islamic terrorists. As the Berlin truck attack shows, perhaps anything can be turned into an agent of destruction. But this is not the first incident involving such an unconventional weapon. The Nice attack in France already told us of the deadly consequences of using trucks as a vehicle to mow down unsuspecting people. Automobiles ramming into civilians has been witnessed as a strategy by the Palestinians protesting against Israeli occupation.

Perhaps the ISIS took inspiration from that and used it through its propaganda magazine which detailed how large vehicles can be used as killing machines. In both Nice and Berlin, the strategy seems to have worked. Both targeted revellers thus assumed not be conscious of their surroundings. Both struck on seemingly important days in the national calendar. Bastille Day in France is an act of remembrance of the new order which set in motion the laws of the modern world which we take for granted today.

For the terrorists, it was a direct attack on the French ideas of modernity, announcing to the world that Islam is driven by very different set of ideas. Again, targeting German revellers before Christmas and that too in a Christmas market cannot be but an open affront against the national imaginary of that country. It is an act of deliberate provocation, arguing in no uncertain terms that the security of the country is at the will of the Islamic terrorists.

Apologists for the Islamic State have been quick to point out that the Nice attack was a result of the French role in Syria and Libya. However, Germany’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has been minimal and non-combative. It has only provided the services of reconnaissance planes and a couple of mid-air refuelling services, thus clearly having a non-combat role in the Syrian war. And yet Berlin has not been the first attack within Germany.

It has been reeling from the threat of Islamist violence since quite some time now. Moreover, Germany has been in the forefront of Europe to take refugees from the war torn countries in the Middle East even when the so called Islamic countries have refused to take them. It is therefore a double betrayal for the German people: they have put pressure on their government not to meddle in the Middle Eastern conflict and they have been pro-active in providing support to Muslim refugees from these countries. And yet they are being
attacked, not by anyone else but by Muslims and probably from these very countries.

The detailed contours of the attack will emerge slowly but surely. After all the German police and the media have shown restraint in the past and are showing it now by not jumping the gun by naming this Islamic organization or another. They are not even unequivocally saying that this is an Islamic terrorist attack. Contrast this with the Indian media: within minutes they seem to know the name of the terrorists, the organization which they belong to, and even their other plans. But this is beside the point; the contrast only being made to show that despite such atrocities the German press and the police have maintained their neutrality and are still not openly hostile towards the Muslims.
It is too early to say whether this was a lone wolf attack or whether it is a coordinated and planned attack. But one this is for sure: for the people of Germany, their patience must be running out with Islam and Muslim refugees. And that precisely is the real danger. In post- history stage of European evolution, their life style has mostly been defined in terms of consumption patterns. The seeming regularity and orderliness of everyday life is something that is taken for granted by most Germans and it is expected that the state will continue to work in that direction. Islamic terrorism interrupts that order but the ire of the Germans will definitely fall on the state and the government, fuelled by Islamophobia. All this can only give strength to the German Right who are the more willing to fulfil the wishes of actors like Islamic terrorists.


(Arshad Alam is a columnist)



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