The attack on the Manchester Arena last night was callous, horrific and barbarous. That the perpetrator or perpetrators targeted an event attended by children and young people only underscores the savagery of this incident.
As a parent I look on with horror, and shudder at the thought of those parents grieving today or on the bedside of their injured children. It was brought home to me by a colleague and friend in the Manchester Muslim community whose children had attended the concert but were thankfully not hurt.
As a Muslim I wonder what possessed the attacker to carry out his deed. I pray that such people face the full weight of justice in this life and the next. Their actions are in defiance of the many pronouncements of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, of the Quranic edict to “save life”, and of over a millennia of Islamic scholarship.
While such violence has no basis in the Islamic faith, these thugs still use Islam to justify their actions. For them, the condemnation of their cause by governments, scholars, communities and faith leaders has no bearing on their actions.
If anything, it emboldens them further, adding mystique to their so called renegade cause. While we should be treating these people as down right criminals, thugs who get high from chaos, we instead give them the oxygen of publicity, badge them with the label of terrorist, and allow more gullible souls to be seduced by their dead-end aims.
Invariably every attack is followed by calls on Muslims to do more to root these people out. Many thousands do although this is not always easy: the people who commit these atrocities operate on the sidelines – their actions a mystery to even their own parents. But as Chris Phillips, the former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said on the radio today: some people will always slip through.
So what are we to do? Clearly there needs to be renewed action. If there is anything we Muslims can do to combat this we should proactively look into it. That means Muslim communities, other faith communities and government inclusively working together.
Above all though we must not allow these murderers and thugs to succeed by furthering mistrust and division. Instead we must promote our far superior, positive narrative.
That narrative was in full display last night when ordinary Mancunians of all faiths got stuck in to help our valiant emergency services. It was there in the stories of Muslim doctors volunteering their help; it was there in the free rides offered by Sikh taxi drivers; it was there in the stories of rabbis providing tea and refreshment to police men and women in the aftermath of the attack.
The extremists want to ensure our communities turn on one another. We must take the poison out of their message by showing how we come together to aid one another.
(Published in The Telegraph)
By Harun Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain