By the skin of their teeth, German security services, with the help of their U.S. colleagues, prevented earlier this month what might have been the worst terrorist attack in European history. The amount of explosives 28-year-old Fritz G., 22-year-old Daniel S. and Adem Y., a 28-year-old Turkish-German, had prepared in an inconspicuous vacation home would have been many times more destructive than the Madrid and London bombs.
The would-be bombers aren't some neglected immigrants on the margins of society. No, the danger came directly from children of good, solid homes. Fritz G.'s father was an engineer in Munich, his mother a doctor. In the 1990s, the son found support in Islam and became a regular of the "Multi-Kulti-Haus," a German center for fanatical Muslims in the small Bavarian town of Neu-Ulme. Daniel S. from Saarland converted from Catholicism to Islam in 2004 after dropping out from high school. German security services believe he visited a terror camp last year in Pakistan. Even the most alarmist German politician could hardly have imagined so much "home grown" terrorism at once.
The phenomenon of extremist converts should worry us for it shows that Islam can be decoupled from its native religious and cultural background. Al-Qaedism is becoming a universal, radical ideology of protest. Young Westerners in search for the most brutal anti-Western position find bin Laden's ideas seductive. The French Islam expert Olivier Roy writes about the attraction of Islamism: "Only two radical protest movements in the West still claim to be internationalist: the anti-globalization movement and radical Islamists....Al-Qaeda has clearly occupied an existing space of anti-imperialism and protest....Al-Qaeda is a successor to the ultra-left and third-world movements."