GERMANWINGS PILOT CONVERTED TO ISLAM?
On 24 March, a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed into the French Alps when the 27-year old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, locked himself alone in the cockpit and deliberately steered in into a mountain, killing all 150 people on board. Despite mainstream media reports that there was no religious terrorism involved, rumours soon spread within Christian networks that Lubitz had converted to Islam and that the attack was an act of Islamic terrorism.
On 27 March 2015, three days after the tragedy, TPNN website (Tea Party News Network) published an article titled “Germanwings Co-Pilot Was Muslim Convert”. Evidence offered in support of the hypothesis was a Facebook page that allegedly revealed Lubitz to be a convert to Islam. The Facebook page was set up by others who praised him as “our holy martyr Lubitz [who] died for our prophet”, but the fact that others had created the page after the crash was ignored by TPNN in their reporting. The page in question was called “Andreas Lubitz fans” and referenced him posthumously, clearly indicating it was established post-crash.
German PI-News (Politically Incorrect News) also published a report compiled by blogger Michael Mannheim, which included the following ‘information’: “Lubitz trained as a pilot in Bremen, which is also the home of a mosque that was investigated in December for allegedly supporting the Islamic State. Lubitz took a few months off at one point before returning to work and getting recertified to fly.”
On the basis of these two points—a mosque under investigation and a break Lubitz took six years ago—Mannheimer concluded the following: “All evidence indicates that the copilot of Airbus machine, in his six-months break during his training as a pilot for Germanwings converted to Islam, and subsequently either by the order of ‘radical’ (ie. devout) Muslims or by the order in the ‘book of terror’ (the Quran) decided to carry out this mass murder.”
Christian networks latched on to this report and prayer requests were sent via social media, calling for prayer for the victims who died in this ‘Islamic terrorist attack’. The reports, however, were based entirely on assumption, speculation and prejudice.
SO WHAT DO WE KNOW?
Lubitz comes from a family that belongs to the Lutheran Church in Montabaur. According to Der Spiegel, it is true that he trained in Bremen where a mosque is under investigation for Islamic extremist support. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr also confirmed that Lubitz took a break in his training six years ago, before doing the tests again and being deemed fit to fly.
Acquaintances in Lubitz’s hometown of Montabaur described him as a friendly but quiet man who learned to fly gliders at a local club before advancing to commercial aviation.
German media reported that Lubitz had suffered from depression during the period in which he had broken off this training. Authorities also found torn-up sick notes showing that the pilot was suffering from an illness that should have grounded him and that he had hidden. No suicide note or confession was found, and there was no evidence of a political or religious motivation for what happened.
On the basis of this information, it is impossible to conclude that Lubitz was motivated by any religious agenda, Islamic or otherwise.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
1. We need to consider why people (including Christians) are so quick to believe the worst. Not every disaster should be linked to Islam, but it is somehow easier to believe this than to consider other possibilities.
2. The appeal of sensationalism remains a challenge. Yet sensationalism is not a Godly motivation for prayer – anguish is. Even if Lubitz was a Muslim, our hearts should break for a soul that entered eternity without Jesus. Sensationalist ‘news’ messages should never be a motivator for prayer.
3. Scripture’s calls for truth should be a guideline when it comes to unsubstantiated accusations against individual groups of people. Proverbs 3:30 reads “Do not accuse anyone for no reason-when they have done you no harm.” False accusations incite hatred and suspicion, and Romans 14:19 calls for believers “to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”. We will either be instruments of peace or instruments of conflict and hatred, and while there is a deep need for a vigorous pursuit and sharing of the truth, there also needs to be a desire to not compromise truth with baseless accusations.
4. Calls for prayer can sometimes be used to drive political, economic or religious agendas. This is opposite to what God intended for prayer (1 John 5:14, 1 Timothy 2:3-5, Ephesians 6:12). Prayer requests such as those relating to the Islamisation of the Germanwings crash can create animosity towards people who should be the beneficiaries of God’s grace. ‘Spiritual xenophobia’ can sometimes be disguised as ‘spiritual alertness’, and we need to guard against this.