Jul 16

Dropped off the radar

Normally I analyze religion in the news. Today I want to point out a story where, once religion was taken out of it, disappeared.

There was a big news story that broke over the weekend of a mass shooting in a Munich McDonald's. This followed a knife attach in the same region in May where the culprit shouted "Allah Akbar" ("God is Great"). The shooter in this case was of Iranian descent.

Naturally enough people began talking about Islamic terrorism. French President Francois Hollande branded the shooting a "disgusting terrorist attack." Donald Trump tweeted "Our prayers are with all those affected by the horrible attacks in Munich. This cannot continue. The rise of terrorism threatens the way of life for all civilized people, and we must do everything in our power to keep it from our shores." Boris Johnson, the UK's newly minted Foreign Secretary, said "If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at the source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the Middle East – and also of course around the world."

And thus the news cycle continued for a few days. Now, admittedly, we in the US were a bit preoccupied with other things in the news. Pesky presidential election, not to mention our own internal tension and violence.

However, here is the big thing that did not really get a lot of attention in our press:

The kid was not a Muslim. In fact, his actions were likely inspired by an the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks in Norway in 2011. Ali David Sonboly launched the attack on the 5th anniversary of those killings, after changing his Facebook profile picture to that of Anders Breivik, the white supremacist who killed 77 people in the Norway attacks. When the police investigated his room they found numerous books on mass shootings, particularly Columbine.

Sonboly attempted to lure teenagers to the shooting. He created a fake Facebook profile of a pretty girl named Selina Akim and promised to buy people things if they came to the McDonald's at the shopping center. Someone else called him out on it, however, pointing out that it was a fake profile and a bid for attention. He also told people on in a video game chat that he intended to do it. Apparently he had made similar statements before and no one paid him any attention.

He killed seven people. According to eye witnesses he chose his targets. He was looking for people who might have picked on him.

We might say he was mentally disturbed. On the one hand I agree with that. If he had gotten the right kind of attention and socialization and, perhaps, medication this would not have happened. On the other hand I think it is quite clear he planned this carefully, he thought about it a long time, and knew what he was doing. This was not an act while in some form of disassociative mental state. This was murder, and at that my sympathy ends even if my understanding does not.

However, what I really want us to see is that his ethnicity had nothing to do with his actions. His faith or lack there of had nothing to do with his actions.

We need to accept that sometimes people are just terrible creatures. Always have been and always will be. We need to do everything in our power to help them become healthier, happier people who do not become terrible creatures, but in the end terrible things are done by terrible people. They need no more motivation than that.

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