Awkward silence – this is what probably describes the atmosphere in front of the synagogue in central Copenhagen best. In the early hours of Sunday a guard had been killed there by a gunman who had earlier attacked an event on free speech. Hundreds of flowers and little messages have been placed by the fence of the synagogue, people are friendly and calm, they came to express their solidarity with the Jewish minority, but a sense of sadness and irritation is in the air. Armed policemen protect the area around Nørreport station, where the violent events had taken place, and dozens of journalists attempt to grasp the happenings.
Only Solidarity won’t help
The Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt had announced at a press conference in the afternoon that she condemns the attacks, framing them as violent political acts of extremists against Western values. Without giving further information about the killed gunman, she emphasized the importance of Danish beliefs in freedom and unconditional equality in her cautious speech. Without any doubt, Denmark can be proud of its robust social system giving all citizens equal access to education, healthcare and social support – a frame that should prevent radicalization, but it neither helped in case of the recent Copenhagen shootings, nor in the escalation linked to the Muhammad cartoon controversy, which was triggered by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.
While international political actors express their solidarity with the Danish people, it seems like this won’t be enough, especially after the last terrorist attacks in France happened only one month ago. Domestic terrorism hasn’t been on the European agenda for years due to the economic crisis and the distant conflicts in the Middle East. The attacks in Madrid and London were embedded in the aftermath of 9/11 and the international intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, Al-Qaida was much more present and the links between global conflicts and terrorism on European soil almost seemed to be clear.
Now, with IS on the global stage and their success of recruiting and radicalizing young people, it has become even more difficult to identify the transnational network structures and extremist cells, but greater cooperation between EU countries and effort in this area will be necessary. The repeated emphasis of the Western core values won’t stop aggression, nor will a plain solidarity partnership of European countries. The adaption to the transnational pattern will be crucial in the future to understand patterns and learn from other countries mistakes and best practises. In fact, the problem of extremism is not a local one, therefore it cannot be solved locally.
Do we have to speak about integration – again?
Admittedly, there is no best practise example of any European country regarding integration. Somehow there has always been a small share of citizens that could not be fully integrated, but an exchange of ideas and approaches beyond the state boarders would be beneficial. The debate is old and polarizing, but integration tools have to be reconsidered again. Even without harsh ideas like closing boarders, increasing punishment or even deporting citizens, rational and progressive analysis and cooperation might be required.
Apparently, a strong state – like the Danish one – is not enough to avoid tragedies, but every devastating event opens a new chance for improvement. Regarding violent and radical ideas, many questions have to be answered – where are the connections to anti-Democratic ideas? Who has the greatest influence on young people? Which role does the society play?
Surely, Denmark will overcome these terrorist attacks, but the events cannot be simply wiped away. In its characteristic spirit of openness and tolerance, solutions have to be found, like in any other European country facing radicalization and the emerge of extremist cells, solely a framework of tolerance and a strong state won’t stop hidden hatred. Mistakes that have been made in the past immigration politics – like the attampt to introduce planless multiculturalism – must be taken serious and the consequences of negligence must be strategically tackled just as much as present developments.
Photo: Alice Greschkow