Reflections after Attack in Manchester – Conatus News’ Viewpoint
Less than 24 hours after the attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the incident, and ISIS supporters have been celebrating the attack on Twitter. As of the time of writing, the death toll has been holding steady at 22, although there is no indication that it will not rise since many of the 59 injured are being treated for life threatening injuries. Of the victims, one has been identified as an 18-year-old college student, and another an 8-year-old girl who had been separated from her mother and older sister. Among the 59 injured, 12 are under the age of 16 according to the North West Ambulance Service. It is the worst terror attack in the UK since the death of 56 people in the 7/7 bombings of 2005, and it is bound to leave deep scars in the social fabric of a country and a continent that has been rocked by continuous attacks by Islamists.
A short while ago, it was revealed that the name of the suicide bomber who carried out the attack is 23-year-old Salman Abedi, who was apparently known to the authorities. Reportedly, another 23 year old has been arrested in the neighbourhood.
We will be updating this story as news comes in, but as the rest of the world reels from shock, it is important to refrain from repeating meaningless platitudes, while not giving in to mindless hatred and anger. There are many aspects and facets of such attacks throughout Europe that tie them together, and as we move forward all of these must be taken into account. But in addition to the obvious aspects regarding security and fundamentalist ideology, we believe there are uncomfortable truths that must be confronted and resolved, however painful and intimidating they might seem.
All our thoughts should be with the victims of yesterday’s contemptible terrorist act in Manchester which saw swathes of people savagely killed. What happened in Manchester will no doubt stir up some important questions concerning why this happened and what is the appropriate response to be taken. We must be honest with ourselves and concede the fact that Islamic doctrine, to whatever degree, sowed the seeds of the suicide bombing. We must also be honest with ourselves that perceived political grievances fanned the flames. And we must be honest with ourselves that the bifurcation of reality – a this world” and a next “perfect” world full of rewards – prefigures this particular kind of barbarous act owing to the value-systems it forges, or to be more precise, the rationalisation considering what comes to be valued.
Once again, someone was driven to extremes by a toxic ideology. Innocent people died, were mutilated, injured or lost family members and friends, all because this individual chose to take his life in the most disgusting way imaginable; by purposely taking dozens of people with him under the conviction this will guarantee him a place in ‘paradise’. This is what religion does. Destroying lives and denying how precious our time on earth is via the promise of an imaginary eternal afterlife. We must not shy away from pointing out and criticising the dastardly ideology that causes these horrible deeds. Saying religious beliefs instigate evil is not bigotry; it is stating the facts.
In response to an attack such as this, we can only reaffirm our existing principles. Retaliation should come in the form of doubling down on our commitment to freedom, secular democracy and basic human decency. We should be firm in our complete rejection of the ideologies which foster such cowardly violence, without lessening our tolerance for dissenting opinions. Finally, we should remember that the struggle against Islamic extremism is a global one. People and countries all over the world are threatened by Islamist violence, and we should lend as much assistance as possible to those who share our values.
Let us neither bury our heads in the sand nor be in haste to call for measures that have been shown throughout history to only exacerbate tensions and lead to a slippery slope that always ends in the stripping away of human rights. The social contract is delicate. If we sacrifice our values and our rights in exchange for the illusion of safety, there is no reason we may not find ourselves the victims of those same measures one day.
Many Muslims are good people and respond like the rest of us. However, many Muslims in the UK and abroad will tell you that their community has a problem with extreme conservatism, fundamentalism, and support for immoral ideas that do not grant Human rights. Until we are willing to have this conversation, honestly, we will continue abandoning the same people we praise to responding well to this situation, to living with the people willing to engage in such acts.
The fact that this was an attack on children, on teenagers enjoying a much-anticipated pop concert, cannot be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant. Understanding the corrosive hatred that can lead one to blow up children requires us to acknowledge that the seeds are sowed when differences are viewed as insurmountable, a distinction that dehumanises and risks our young ones. In light of the Islamic State’s barbaric and monstrous treatment of women and their fanatic insistence on a puritan form of living, it is also significant that the attack was at an event many Islamic extremists would deem immoral, vulgar, the heights of western debauchery and cultural degradation, which was attended by large numbers of women and girls. Should we begin to consider that extreme cultural and value differences are a problem?
Yesterday’s attack at Manchester Arena was the worst terrorist attack in the UK since 56 people were killed in the 7/7 London bombings in 2005. The massacre occurred on the anniversary of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death on a London street on May 22, 2013 We do not have to generalise about all Muslims in order to acknowledge that Islamism is an aggressive, intolerant political ideology whose followers are mass murdering innocent people (both Western and Oriental, Muslim and non-Muslim) all over the globe. We must create a society that divides Islamists from the rest of the British population, marginalising them with the same energy that we have marginalised the British right.
Yet again we meet. Here, at this crossroad. One way leads to nothingness; the other, south. The conversation ahead is predictable. This has nothing to do with Islam. This has nothing to do with Muslims. Okay, so he was Muslim, but he doesn’t represent all Muslims. Yes, but the Bible is just as violent. Well, that is not true Islam. Whatever that means. Come to think of it. What does that mean? Because for many of us, and quite obviously, many of them, true Islam continues to manifest itself at the tip of the gun.
Every time such an attack unfolds, I ask myself in bewilderment ‘why?”. We know who these people are, but what makes them unleash such detestable horrors? Anyone can see that explanations adverting to political grievances are given to protect a particular community from getting beleaguered. It’s appreciable that it’s done , but that won’t give us the true answers that we need. We need to wake up to this ideology that has no mercy whatsoever for ‘others’, or its own dissidents. We need to counter it and must refuse to let the argument of ‘hurt sentiments’ be an impediment in the discourse. Nobody in the world can proclaim that they are totally safe in the wake of this terrorism that stems out of this particular ideology.
As the theologian and researcher Dr Usama Hasan notes, Salafist rulings on music were a major influence in yesterday evening’s abhorrent attack. While rejecting music is of course any individual’s right, all too often hate is preached towards artistic mediums such as music and dance, and those who practice them. This must end.