Ali David Sonboly (18), a son of Iranian immigrants, who was born and raised in Germany, committed a mass shooting in Olympia mall in Munich. The teenager was diagnosed with depression and violent outbursts. He was also outcast by his classmates because of his Iranian background and having social problems. Sonboly had a rage towards the German society that didn’t accept him, letting him feel neglected by his country, so he decided to revenge by murder.
Sonboly created a fake Facebook profile of a girl with a Muslim background, inviting people from his high school to McDonald’s at Olympia mall for a free meal that she was buying. When the students arrived at the mall, Sonboly went on a shooting spree, leading to murder of nine, seven of whom were teenagers. Another 27 people were wounded.
The shooting spree was well planned by Sonboly. He read books and guides on mass shootings, researched high school shooting cases and bought a gun and 300 bullets.
Munich police forces came to Olympia mall in pursuit of Sonboly where a shootout began. The shooter ran from the mall to an empty apartment building where he hid. One of the residents mistook him for being Turkish, yelling at him for betraying Germany. In a surreal conversation, Sonboly defended himself, saying he is German. At the end of the conversation, Sonboly committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The Munich massacre originated from one person’s feeling of foreignness. Even in his last moments, Sonboly wanted people to know that he belongs to Germany. Sonboly was abused by his classmates because he was the son of Muslim immigrants. His cultural background was a reason for shame and despair for him. This type of social relationship between social groups is a reason for political tension in Europe now days. Sonboly was not abused because he was socially awkward or shy. He was abused because he was Iranian. All the media has written about the Munich Gun man, was fixated on Sonboly’s psychological and social pathology, not mentioning one of the biggest reasons for the murder- the racism and Islam phobia of the German society.
In this article, I will examine the Munich gunman case together with describing the relationship between immigrants and European society contributing to the murder.
The name given to Sonboly by the German press was “Munich gunman”, the gunman was a depressed young man who was obsessed with youth mass shooting events, especially the one of the Norwegian right extremist “Andres Breivik”.
In 2011 a mass shooting was committed by the right extremist Andres Breivik, Breivik murdered Swedish teenagers at an Oslo summer camp using explosives. For Sonboly, Breivik was a role model. Sonboly changed his Facebook profile picture to one of Breivik.
Breivik killed 8 people using a bomb, after he shot 69 teenagers to death. He was an extreme right idealist apposing Islam, claiming that religion weakened European culture. What is interesting to me is that even though Breivik is a racist and Islam phoebe, Sonboly looked up to him and saw him as a role model, even planning his mass shooting on the same date.
I guess that hatred and violence is stronger than racism. Breivik may have been the only one who spoke Sonboly language- anger, hatred and revenge. So why did a lonely angry teenage boy admire a person who publicly hated people of his religion?
The answer is by the troubled mind of lonely angry people. Psychologically speaking, people planning mass murders are searching for other murderers that have done mass shootings. They search for other people like themselves, to learn how to kill and not to be lonely. The Munich murder was well planned by Sonboly. He studied Breivik’s mass shooting and others. Criminal experts found Sonboly as a ticking bomb, waiting to explode.
People who lived next to Sonboly, told the German press that he was a normal teenage boy, shy and lonely. He lived in an immigrant suburb in Munich. His parents were Iranian refugees who came to Germany in the late 90’s. The reason for his despair was his Iranian background. This background was the reason his class mates abused him for seven years. How come a teenager diagnosed with depression, who was abused for seven years didn’t get any help? Where were his teachers, school counselor and parents?
To answer these questions, I have to look at the political relationship between Western Europe and immigrants. This kind of relationship, is the key to understand why Sonboly become the Munich gunman.
Modern European society today is diverse. This society is defined from locals and immigrants. The immigrants are people who moved their lives from their native countries to Western Europe, people from many parts of the world. But the most diverse and discussed is the Muslim minority. This minority is about seven million people living today in Europe.
Important historical events like the first war world caused massive immigration to Europe, reflected in full integration of the local society during the 20th century. The reason for the immigration was economic. People wanted job opportunity. Western Europe, which is Germany, England, France, Spain and much more. All these countries needed the immigrants for cheap human resources repairing the damages of the wars.
As long as work was needed, the immigrants were needed. During this time, Europe increased the amount of immigration because more working hands were needed. But all this changed during the 1970 economic breakdown because of the increase of oils prices leading to high unemployment, which lead to the end of job recruitment. The great economic breakdown of the 70’s worsened in the 80’s, leading to the return of the immigrants to their home lands. But most of the immigrants had no place to go back to. The second problem was demographic growth. The immigrants had families with no job to provide health care and basic needs. The Europeans needed something to do with the second generation. It was a great social problem at that time.
The increase in the demographic rates and decrease in employment, led to social tension between the local community and the immigrants. The locals accused the immigrants for the economic breakdown. Racism spread against immigrants after 9/11 towards the Muslim immigrants. The global wave of Islamic terror, caused Islam phobia in Western Europe. The spread of Islamic terror, caused the legitimacy of right wing political parties. These parties gave legitimacy to the “pure” European, i.e. not immigrants, especially not Muslim. Racism against Muslims in Europe got tangible and worse than ever before. This racism against Muslims, in my opinion, is the reason that Sonboly became a murderer. Because only through his classmates, did he learned that being Iranian means that he is not a “real” German.
The human mind is a very interesting subject to explore, especially when it comes to the affect of the society towards social difference. It is common in media and journalism that when tragedy occurs by someone that was victimized before the incident, the focus is on the attacker instead of the reason for the attack i.e. the society that victimized him.
Regarding the Munich gunman, as mentioned in the paragraphs above, there is tension between Western European countries and their immigrants. After the 9/11 tragedy, being a Muslim in a western country became a problem. This complex relationship is the reason for Sonboly’s discrimination and abuse. He was victimized not because he had social problems. His social problems occurred because he was Iranian. This boy is a victim of racism. He suffered from a boycott that lasted seven years. He threatened in several social networks that he is going to kill everyone. The Munich shooting could have been avoided if the school that he attended, knew how to deal with racism towards immigrants. The shooting could have been prevented if someone took his threats seriously.
Despite that, even though Sonboly was a victim of racism he chose to become a murderer. He planned the shooting carefully. He could have told his parents about the boycott. He could have moved to different school. There is always a solution better than violence and I hope that this shooting was a wakeup call for the wrong doings of the modern racism in Western Europe.