This comment piece appeared in the i newspaper in the wake of the Manchester attacks
We should be angry about the Manchester attack
How inevitable it is, that at times like this all the sordid clichés and false apprehensions come out.
That if it weren’t for a “reckless foreign policy” the Salman Abedis of this world would wish only peace upon the West. That without an innately Islamophobic British population forcing disenfranchised young men into the arms of the radicalisers, the Salman Abedis would not exist.
That love and unity alone will protect our children from people who see them as fair game for nail-bombs.
‘People like Salman Abedi don’t want to “divide us”. They want to kill us’
Or perhaps the most flawed interpretation of all, that people like Salman Abedi simply “want to divide us”. After a day when the emergency services have been through the unspeakable task of picking up children’s limbs from the floor of an arena, how can you think that the main motive at work is social division?
This isn’t about an ‘atmosphere’
The view that it’s better to internalise these things and turn the guilt and responsibility onto ourselves is an inherent lineament of the Left. Take Novara Media founder Aaron Bastani, who just over 12 hours after the attack put someone to rights on Twitter by edifyingly pointing out that “the point of these attacks is literally to create atmosphere of mistrust between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe”.
‘People like Salman Abedi want intellectual sympathy; kind Western advocates to cover for them, to argue that their case holds water’
Personally I find it extraordinary that so many are willing to speak for the now silent Salman Abedi while his child victims lie in intensive care, let alone claim that what he did had a “point”.
Follow the “it was to divide us’ case to its logical end”. That it wasn’t out of mere blood-lust or religious rage, but in fact the service of a higher end, a strategic “point”, that 22 children and adults were murdered on Monday night.
Do you then infer that though it racked and pained and tortured poor Salman Abedi to fill a backpack with nuts and bolts, slink deep into a crowd of young people and pull the chord, but what got him through the harrowing task was the knowledge that it would be worth it to further a greater cause?
No. People like Salman Abedi don’t want to “divide us”. They want to kill us.
Our gentle contextualisation
Murdering children at a concert is not simply a means to create mistrust in society. Any more than hacking to death with machetes an LGBT rights activist in Dhaka is; or sending a woman with Downs’ Syndrome into a Baghdad market strapped up with explosives; or beheading women and children in Syria; ordering the murder of an author for writing a book; murdering Danish publishers for printing a cartoon; driving a truck through a crowded market in Berlin.
These are not rational human acts, worthy of the gentle contextualisation they always receive in the West. These are not means to an end. These are the actions of a sect whose means and ends are the same thing. Actions so far removed from what the vast majority of Muslims identify with their faith that to shrug them off and not to separate them out, coldly and in clear light, is in fact a dangerous slander to a whole religious community.
‘Why are we shouldering the moral burden for the most illiberal, immoral people on the planet?’
Again and again the point is lost. Crucial lessons go perilously unlearned, the most revolting crimes are blithely explained away by mindless casuistry, without anger. It’s happened this week – it will happen next time.
It reminds me of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, when I watched bemused as the “Je suis pas Charlie” crew Leftsplained online that, “Yeah yeah it’s not right to kill journalists and all that, but did you see the Islamophobic stuff they were putting out [before they were killed]?” Or the Bataclan attacks in Paris, hailed by the Stop the War Coalition as the night when the West finally “reaped” the rotten fruits of its actions in the Middle East.
Not soldiers with a cause – murderers
These are the prominent examples. Even more insidious though, I’d argue, is the casual, everyday absolution. The blithe shoulder-shrugged, “It’s the West’s fault, stupid” reaction to each and every terrorist attack that happens from here to Dhaka.
Seeing as we’re guessing what was going through Salman Abedi’s mind as he walked murderous into that crowd, I’ll offer an opinion: talk like this is precisely what he would have wanted. To think that there were people to advocate for him post-mortem would be a dream just short of martyrdom.
People like Salman Abedi want intellectual sympathy; kind Western advocates to cover for them, to argue in absentia that their case holds water. To concur that a “reckless foreign policy” is in some way context enough for blowing up children at a concert. That they are not, in fact, murderers, but soldiers with a cause, a “point” to what they do.
I am trying very hard to keep my lifelong faith with the Left through all this. But what has happened to our priorities, that we are willing to do such dirty work? To shoulder the moral burden for the most illiberal, immoral people on the planet? How many mass-murders will it take to realise that at work are motives far more deadly and sinister than the creation of social division? That to rationalise these actions as such goes some way to absolving them; that false apprehensions and conclusions make us far more vulnerable, not less?
I suspect, and shudder to think, that more children will die before we find out.