People pay their respects to the victims of the deadly suicide bombing in Manchester that took place during an Ariana Grande concert. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week I awoke to messages from friends asking if my family and friends were ok. I immediately turned on the news and was shocked to discover a terrorist attack had happened in the center of my home town of Manchester.
Manchester, the home of football and grunge rock bands, of Coronation Street and an accent so thick it took outsiders a long time to work out. A place where if they didn’t call you “luv” at the checkout you knew something was wrong, and where the cold never stopped the mini-skirted young ladies walking down the main street, Deansgate, in sub-zero temperatures.
Manchester is no stranger to terrorism.
As Howard Jacobson, also a Mancunian by birth, pointed out: “Manchester has been bombed before.”
The IRA bomb planted at the Arndale Centre (the main shopping center) in 1996 destroyed hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of property and wounded 200 people. There were no fatalities as the IRA phoned 90 minutes before the explosion to issue a warning.
Young concert goers at the Manchester City Arena last week were given no such warning.
This was a different type of terrorist attack, one that we in Israel unfortunately know too well. Salman Abedi, a suicide bomber who was born and raised in Manchester, detonated his deadly charge with the intent to cause as many fatalities as he could.
Around Manchester there have been vigils and an outpouring of grief together with statements about how Mancunians are sturdy and resilient and will not be bowed by this act of terrorism, how they will not turn one person’s actions into a crusade against Muslims and how they are strong and refuse to let this attack change their views.
Flags on social media turn to “I Love Manchester” signs and prayers are said for those whose lives will never be the same again. Increased police presence is everywhere, and from what I hear there is a real sense of unity on the streets of Manchester.
Mancunians and British people in general are feeling proud, and rightly so, of the homeless man who carried a girl to safety, of the hospital staff who worked incredibly hard to save all those they could and of the many good people of Manchester who put others before themselves. In all these they find some solace – but it is also a distraction from the real issue, the homegrown terrorist.
Britain is dealing with threats from within and it needs to address them honestly, which is incredibly hard. In an open, multicultural society there is tightrope to walk between condemning radical, fanatical Islam while at the same time not encouraging xenophobia.
To balance a non-acceptance of fundamentalist factions while not alienating already wary Muslims who may feel that they cannot practice their religion freely, or walk unafraid in the streets without fear of being called a terrorist.
It may be a tightrope walk, but it has to be done. Someone, somewhere must have known how radicalized this young man was. Someone, somewhere, had a hand in radicalizing him. Britain is going to have to look long and hard at the journey this man took to become what he became. It may not be easy, people’s feeling and sensibilities may be hurt along the way, but the cost of ignoring the issue is too high.The author grew up in Manchester and made aliya in 2009 to Jerusalem.
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