Phi Beta Cons

Tolerance and a Student Would-Be Bomber

One of the terror suspects in the failed attempt to bomb German trains is Youssef Mohammad, a 21-year-old student of mechatronics (a combination of mechanics, information technology and electronics) at the University of Kiel. He is believed to be part of a larger Islamist terrorist group called Hisb ut-Tahrir al Islami. 
As Evgeny Morozov writes in TCS, the foiled bombing attack has focused the spotlight on Germany’s tolerance towards members of this organization and other militants living within the country – specifically, in this case, towards militant students living around the country. 
Morozov reports that the failure to integrate Muslim immigrants is causing “a malaise that is slowly paralyzing the whole continent,” and especially so in Germany. Among other examples, he cites a plea by a group of teachers to shut down a school with mostly immigrant students, because it had become too fractious to teach in.
As the ramifications of the Mohammad case are of great and broad import, it is worth quoting Morozov at length:

…even though the current terrorist threat does not come from the immigrant population per se, but rather from students who entered Germany for short-term studies, there is absolutely no guarantee that their example will not inspire thousands of alienated and radicalized youngsters, most of them German citizens, to follow the pernicious example. 
On some level, the threat emanating from the Muslim student population is even worse: they are largely unknown to the German security forces; they have a much stronger association with what is going on in the Middle East, and they have no attachment to Germany whatsoever. Furthermore, the current mass-production scale of the German university system hardly allows for early detection of such radicalized youngsters: with 500 students sharing a lecture hall, it is next to impossible to remember the names, not mention psychological traits, of the student body. Psychological counseling is still mostly unheard of in German schools. 
Known for its financial generosity when it comes to education, Germany spends millions to educate people like Youssef Mohammad and even Mohamed Atta, one of the masterminds of 9/11, who then go on to use their technical expertise to construct bombs and explosives… 
The government’s response [for instance, a “unified database”]…does not seem adequate…, given that most of the terrorists seem to be in their early 20s and thus would hardly feature in the official files (not to mention that some of them hail from abroad and are only studying in Germany). 
The German authorities cannot help but start working with the young Muslims susceptible to radicalization…Leaving these youngsters to TV and the Internet is a sure way to have them enlisted by terrorist organizations; theirs is an entirely different Internet from the one that is browsed by other Germans. The failure to win the hearts and minds of the radicalized youth might perpetuate the scenario in which the governments spend tax funds to educate foreign terrorist experts who go on to blow up the very governments that have been so generous to them.

Germans, other Europeans, we in the United States – and indeed the citizens of many other nations – are naturally loath to face up to the hideous prospect of a terrorist threat at the hands of extremist students in our midst. The tale of Youssef Mohammad suggests we may all be soon forced to do so.

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