The attack in Manchester signaled the beginning of what many fear to be a repeat of last summer’s bloodbath of ISIS attacks across Europe. After 22 people were killed, countless others struggling for their lives, and the damage was already done, Britain has raised its terror threat level to ‘critical’ and intelligence agencies are investigating the terrorist and his suspected ties.
Unsettlingly, Salman Abedi had already been under the radar of French and British intelligence agencies and was known to have traveled to Syria and Libya and had proven ties to Islamic State. Before long, it had been discovered that his father was a member of al-Qaeda affiliate groups in Libya before arriving in Britain.
I won’t pretend to know the complexities and nuances involved in British national security and counterterror operations, but one can’t help but wonder why if there was even a shadow of a doubt – which in this case, there was much more than that – had Mr. Abadi not been apprehended sooner? Of the many things one could do that might set off a red flag, you would think that 22-year-old born to Libyan refugee parents flying to Syria and Turkey and then returning to the UK would without question top the list.
I am currently on vacation in London and watched on the BBC as news of the attack was unfolding before any real details had emerged. In the initial moments following reports of explosions in the concert hall, it was being speculated that the chaos had been caused by an exploding PA speaker or perhaps a disaster involving rogue balloons and we were endlessly reminded not to jump to any conclusions. But undoubtedly after the events of last summer, people weren’t buying it and knew exactly what was going on and knew exactly who was responsible.
Before long, as the death toll crept higher and higher, everybody’s fears had been confirmed as it was soon discovered that the mass carnage was caused by a nail bomb – and a quite sophisticated one. In my aunt and uncle’s home where I was staying, the murmurs of ‘I hope this wasn’t a Muslim’ that come with every terrorist attack filled the room and the predominant concern was not for the children and teenagers who were just brutally murdered, but for the wave of imminent ‘Islamophobia’ that would ensue.
One guest who was over for tea that night went on to say that she believed Donald Trump was responsible for this massacre, as his visit to Israel and his politeness towards Benjamin Netanyahu had effectively caused so much outrage to the Muslim world, that Mr. Abedi felt the need to kill 22 people – and himself – at a hall full of teenagers and young children…
She then quickly added that “he was not a true Muslim” in an attempt to absolve the man she had just effectively described as a pissed-off Muslim of having any association to Islam. Of course, Mr. Abedi was a Muslim. He, according to his neighbors, practiced Islam in its most literal interpretation, lived his life in a very puritanical Islamic fashion, and in fact, died in the name of Islam to attain martyrdom.
As insensitive as I find this sort of sentiment to be, I’m quite used to it in my family and my circle of Muslim friends. What is most striking, however, is that it is no longer exclusive to Muslims and that many non-Muslim Westerners seem to share those same concerns above all else. Suddenly, people were more angry about offending Muslim sentiments than they were grief stricken at the fact that small children had just been murdered in perhaps the most brutal way imaginable.
Likewise, those who dared to rightly criticize and condemn the ideology that inspired the attack suddenly became more evil than Abedi, whose homemade bomb had just ripped through the bodies of small children enjoying a pop concert. The time that should have been spent mourning the victims was spent worrying about what, say, Tommy Robinson or Katie Hopkins might write on Twitter.
It should go without saying that those who do in fact have genuine hatred towards all Muslims are very few in number – and even they are highly unlikely to commit indiscriminate infanticide – but alas we find ourselves falling into the same trap time and time again. Journalists, politicians, celebrities, or even generals and national security experts who say anything unsavory about the realities of political Islam, the doctrine of jihad, or the tenets of Sharia law are all presumed to be nefarious bigots who are exploiting a tragedy to push their own hateful and Islamophobia agenda.
In reality, these people are in most cases critical of the violence, illiberalism, sexism, homophobia, and religious intolerance contained in these politicized doctrines. But because the ideology they are criticizing is one which is adhered to predominantly by minority ethnic groups in the west, progressives have concluded that the critics of intolerance are themselves the intolerant ones.
What is most difficult for me to grasp is why it easier for people to believe that so many well-meaning liberal people with very real and very honest concerns about the nature of political Islam and its problematic elements are part of some sinister cabal than it is for them to believe that there are extremely devout believers in their faith who are willing to kill and die for their faith. Of course, it is worth noting that those same people have no qualms in accepting the fact that somebody could bomb an abortion clinic in the name of Christianity, or that the Israeli Defense Force could launch air strikes on Hamas militants and inadvertently kill civilian children for any reason other than that the Jews are bloodthirsty murderers who all have a deep hatred of all Muslims.
Whilst collectively losing sight of the true nature of the threat that our societies are faced with, we are not only obstructing any progress towards addressing the root of the problem of Islamic terrorism with our politeness and niceties but are in fact acting in a counterproductive manner. Just a year ago, Manchester police had conducted a mock terrorism simulation in a shopping center in which the mock suicide bomber had shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he detonated his vest. This move was, of course, heavily criticized by progressive Britons for its cultural insensitivity, and the Manchester police were subsequently made to apologize for the ‘tasteless’ move.
Rather than being grateful that the Manchester police force was taking appropriate measures to prepare for a terrorist attack and was training for how to best protect British citizens from a very real and likely threat, they instead expressed their outrage over what the mock terrorist chose to exclaim during the simulation. Perhaps it would come as a shock to those people that the angry white nationalists like the one who murdered Jo Cox are not the greatest existential threat
This is a problem that we shouldn’t expect to simply disappear by ignoring it and by lying about it. Nobody is suggesting that we should be heartless about this. Nobody is saying that we should hate our neighbors or be unkind to them simply on the basis of their religion, and we absolutely shouldn’t. But despite what we are endlessly told by politicians, the media, and others, we cannot defeat the threat of political Islam unless we are candid and honest about it, even if that means being critical of the uncomfortable realities of people’s deeply held religious beliefs.
If those with the privilege of living in a free, liberal and secular society decide that it is no longer worth defending from existential threats and that defending people’s feelings is more important than defending the future of their civilization, then there will be nobody left to defend it and it will inevitably fall.