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Opinion

Opinion: Only confidence can help

Since the arrest of a terror suspect in Leipzig there have been many accusations about the failings of Saxony's police department. Taking a step back would help, thinks DW's Richard A. Fuchs.

No, Germany has not become a different country in the last 48 hours. Nonetheless, the events in Chemnitz and Leipzig have no doubt captivated the entire nation. The arrest of 22-year-old Syrian Jaber Albakr, the explosives found in his Chemnitz apartment, his temporary flight, and the help of other refugees that ultimately led to his capture have all stirred the country - in politics, in the security community and in public debates.

All involved are scratching their heads wondering what lessons can be learned from the case of Albakr - a refugee that appears to have been operating on orders from the terror organization "Islamic State" (IS), and intent on bringing death and destruction to Germany.

Alarmism is not good security policy

In debates like these the sword of recrimination is quickly drawn, as is the sword that demands maximum measures be taken. While some accuse Saxony's police department of amateurism and failure, others are eager to place all refugees under a general suspicion. Calls for more powers to be given to security and intelligence authorities are growing, and with them calls for the seamless screening of all refugee backgrounds. No matter what the demands are or how relevant they may be: The tone is shrill.

Fuchs Richard Kommentarbild App

DW's Richard A. Fuchs

Now that Germany has narrowly escaped a terror attack many view their suspicions as affirmed. And that is exactly what this heated, and in many ways unnecessary debate is about.

Critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel knew all along that terrorism would arrive in Germany along with the refugees. For them, this most recent case is simply the tip of the iceberg. On the other end of the political spectrum there are attempts being made to craft a new heroic saga: It was only the fearless intervention of a group of young Syrians that allowed authorities to apprehend Albakr in Leipzig. On one side an entrenched Islamophobia bordering on racism, on the other the new heroic saga: What does this tell us about our society?

The poison of terrorism works

Those who soberly assess the fruits of this debate - and this sobriety was once considered a virtue - must conclude: permanent excitation rules the day. Alarmism has become an oft-heard element of political discourse, but it certainly has no part in courteous discourse. Now, in the eyes of many citizens, those who do not call for extreme measures in the wake of such foiled terror attacks are acting unpatriotically. And those who do not fight for a reversal of course and "real" political change are blind to the true danger of the situation. Yet none of that is true!

Those who are permanently agitated rob an open and vital democracy of its most important cohesive attribute: confidence. Without confidence neither security forces nor citizens will be able to deal with the threat of terrorism - not in this case, not in the future. And reality shows just that: Without confidence in their own lives the "heroes of Leipzig" could not have captured the terror suspect and fellow countryman.

When confidence disappears, so will those citizens who actively defend democracy, the rule of law and the constitution. Wherever this confidence has gone missing the poison of terrorism will be free to spread fear. First in the mind and then in action, ultimately leading to terror attacks. Yet how can one keep "fatalism" and an "apocalyptic mood" from replacing "watchfulness" and "confidence" as the basic attributes of the country?

Watchfulness and confidence

Simply stated, by not falling prey to terrorism - neither in our thoughts, nor in our actions. That has a number of advantages. The most important first: Anti-terror laws and effective measures to counter the threat posed by lone-wolf Islamists are best passed with cool heads. Raised tempers and the current hysteria limit the freedoms and rights of all citizens, and do little to make our country safer. The sooner we realize that fact, the sooner we will regain our calm. And some may be astonished by this - the sooner we will regain our security.

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