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The Mannheim stabbing has exposed the cowardice of Germany’s elites

The political class has been desperate to avoid condemning this brutal Islamist attack.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
Germany Correspondent

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Last Friday, five people were injured and one police officer was killed in a knife attack in the German city of Mannheim. The suspect is a 25-year-old man who came to Germany from Afghanistan in 2014.

Though there were no shouts of ‘Alluha Akbar’ heard on the video taken during the stabbing, there was immediate speculation that the attacker was an Islamist. This was hardly a far-fetched idea, given that most of those injured were members of an anti-Islamist activist group called Pax Europa – a branch of the ‘Stop Islamisation of Europe’ organisation.

Yet most German politicians were reluctant to acknowledge this. While they have all condemned the brutal killing, many have also warned the public not to jump to any conclusions. Mannheim mayor Christian Specht said that we should not speculate about the motives of the suspect. The death of the police officer, he also said, showed what ‘hatred and incitement’ could do.

The German political class followed suit in vaguely blaming the attack on a broader climate of so-called hate. German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed concern about the ‘brutalisation of political debate’ and the ‘growing propensity to violence in the country’. Chancellor Olaf Scholz echoed this, saying: ‘Violence is absolutely unacceptable in our democracy. The perpetrator must be severely punished.’

Every statement has felt deliberately vague. Certainly no mainstream politician has dared mention the likely Islamist component of the stabbings. It seems Germany’s elites are so fixated with their fight against ‘hate’ – a code word for right-wing populism – that they cannot speak out about the Mannheim attack without prefacing it with endless caveats.

Indeed, the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) have focussed their entire European Parliament election campaign around taking on the ‘far right’. They have plastered the country with posters framing themselves as the party against ‘hate’, presumably because they are currently vying for second place with the right-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). Yet now that Germany has experienced a truly terrible act of violence and hate, SPD grandees have gone curiously quiet.

The SPD, as well as the other parties in the coalition government, are clearly terrified that the AfD will exploit the attack for votes. Such fears are far from unfounded. On Sunday, the AfD youth branch organised a rally in Mannheim, demanding a stricter immigration and asylum policy. Had the perpetrator been sent back home, the AfD argues, this crime would never have happened. A counter-demonstration was immediately organised under the motto ‘Solidarity against violence, hatred and incitement’. It was supported by city councillors from most of the mainstream parties. Ironically, the AfD’s rally, as unpleasant as it may have been, has been condemned in far stronger terms than the original violent attack.

This subdued response to the Mannheim stabbing also stands in stark contrast to the outpouring of solidarity and condemnation that followed another recent attack. Last month, SPD MEP Matthias Ecke was attacked by a group of four young men. He too was badly injured and had to be hospitalised. From the moment the attack was made public, there seemed to be no question that the perpetrators had far-right motives. The SPD even explicitly blamed it on AfD supporters. While Ecke was rightly presented as an innocent victim, the media have insinuated that Michael Stürzenberg, one of the Pax Europa speakers who was stabbed in the face and the leg, brought the attack on himself. In one report by ZDF, Germany’s national broadcaster, Stürzenberg was described as xenophobic and Islamophobic. It is clear that Germany’s political and media class had far more sympathy to spare for Ecke than for the targeted members of Pax Europa.

As much as the German commentariat would like to pretend otherwise, the biggest terror threat in Germany comes not from the likes of the right-wing Reichsbürger, but from Islamism. Just last month, police arrested two suspected Islamists for planning a knife attack on a synagogue in Heidelberg in south-west Germany. Now, in the aftermath of the Mannheim stabbing, Islamists are taking to social media to celebrate the attack. One post calls for the death of all ex-Muslims and critics of Islam.

Islamism poses a real threat to Germany. Yet our political class is not even prepared to name it, let alone confront it in any meaningful sense. This is not just dishonest – it also isolates critics of Islamism and puts them in danger. One such critic is Israeli-Palestinian psychologist Ahmad Mansour, who has long needed personal protection for whenever he speaks in public. When interviewed about the Mannheim attack, he complained that his opposition to Islamism is too often equated with being far right. This atmosphere can be deadly for people like him, he said, as critics of Islam are often defamed to the point of dehumanisation, while the elites stare at their shoelaces.

This cowardice in the face of the Islamist threat will only embolden it further.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl is spiked’s Germany correspondent.

Picture by: X / Storyful.

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