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© Bernard Bodo

Murder Comes to Manchester

Terrorism hits Britain once again, following a concert by American singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena.

It is always disconcerting to wake up to news of terrorism, causalities, pictures of screaming children, ambulances, solemn looking police officers making official comments, and jumpy radio and television journalists speaking on the topic.

Scenes from the Manchester Arena in Britain suggest utter carnage, fear and shock. These images will have reverberated around the world by now. Political leaders, community spokespersons and informed commentators will all be making various statements.

As the initial shocks subside, however, it will lead to serious questions about the nature of this incident and the people behind it. In a charged political and cultural climate, there will be the inevitable “Muslim question” about what has gone on. Was this the actions of a “lone actor terrorist”? Were they inspired or directed by extremist individuals or groups outside the community or in the country? If we can be sure that an extremist with a religious or ideological motive carried this out, is it likely that the perpetrator was of Muslim background? If this is the case, was the individual British-born or from outside the country?

With at least 22 dead and 59 injured by what looks like a nail bomb, other commentators and opinion formers are talking about another set of usual suspect topics. That the government’s Prevent strategy is failing or that we need greater injections of Prevent thinking and practice. Alternatively, that British Muslims need to do more to fight the terrorism that comes from within their own ranks. Or that Islam is the problem and Muslims are perpetuating it. These utterances will come from the counter-jihad school of thought, fueled by alt-right and related revolutionary right-wing thinking.

There will also be those who argue that Prevent is an irrelevance at best. That these terrorist acts are a reflection of the frustration felt by the Muslim world as it comes to terms with the consequences of neoliberalism and xenophobia. And that the only way to deal with these issues is to focus on community development, investment in neighborhoods and cities, and a flattening out of social mobility, where integration is a two-way street. In reality, the most effective sets of solutions will cut through this rhetoric based on evidenced thinking with long-term objectives.

Scenes of young people, children, parents and families, screaming and shouting in fear, running in all directions, separating from each other, are still the defining images of the events from May 22, following a concert by American singer Ariana Grande. Stories of how ordinary citizens of Manchester opened up their doors in the middle of the night to allow people fleeing the scene to recharge their phones or to call others for assistance will be told and retold. That the taxi drivers in the city, of which a significant majority are South Asian Muslims, ensured that people fleeing the scene were able to get home and without charge will be hailed as a victory for community relations.

The UK General Election is three weeks away, but campaigning will temporarily stop today. However, what will replace it is the outcry, the soul-searching, the explanation, the reaction and the condemnation. From the mainstream to the marginal, from the center to the periphery, it is important that these voices do not divide. There is strength in unity and we are all responsible for ensuring it.

*[A version of this article was also featured on the author’s blog.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Bernard Bodo