The reason behind the murder

In Antwerp last week, 18 year old Hans Van Themsche went on a shooting spree, aiming to kill foreigners and immigrants. The victims were a Turkish woman who was seriously injured, a black woman from Mali who was killed and her charge, a 2 year old Belgian toddler who was, in the words of Van Themsche "in the wrong place at the wrong time." Van Themsche intended to commit suicide at the end, but instead he was just shot by police and lived to tell the tale.

I haven't written much about the political furor going now in Belgium, mainly because politics is not really my strong point, and I doubt I can shed light on this issue. Vlaams Belang, the right wing anti-immigration party, is being accused, by left wing politicians as well as by the media, of being an "indirect" cause to the murder. Van Themsche's aunt is a parliament member for Vlaams Belang and that already is enough of a cause, apparently, for going out on a racist attack. Vlaams Belang does have racist and anti-semetic roots, but it does not strike me in itself as racist. They could do more to make sure the racist elements within them are kicked out, but being nationalist does not make you racist.

Van Themsche's original claim was that he had been pestered at school by immigrants and that's why he wanted to get back at them. As is pointed out in the Standaard, this is something that has happened when he was 13, five years ago.

The left wing claim against Vlaams Belang is that you can't accuse an entire community of Moroccans, for example, when a Moroccan kills, but then when "one of your own" kills claim that it's just a psycho. And so, on the one hand, the left wing politicians are doing exactly what they claim the right shouldn't (ie, accuse an entire community of one person's crimes), and on the other they're comparing two completely different things. After all, Vlaams Belang does not have an ideology that it's "Ok to kill immigrants". A Muslim who goes out in the belief that he should kill infidels, supported by his religious upbringing and teachings - does have that ideology.

So, what were the reasons for the murders? An article in the Standaard lists them out:
- Racism
- He was recently kicked out of his school, where he finally felt that he fitted in.
- Apparently, he was playing out a scene from a violent computer game - Grand Theft Auto. All the details, such as going out to a store to buy the gun and then going on a shooting spree. Van Themsche was a fan of such games. The goal of the game is to commit carjackings, but in a way, you also need to kill Spanish speaking immigrants.

For the question of racism. Whether he was pestered in the past or not, Van Themsche did aim at killing immigrants specifically. But did he do it because of his computer games or because his aunt is a parliament member of Vlaams Belang?

Source: Standaard (Dutch)

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