Mourning with Manchester

Manchester, England

After hearing reports of the explosion in Manchester last night, like many people my reaction was “not again.” No doubt extensive media coverage would focus on the “responsibility” of moderate Muslims to contribute more to the fight against extremism, questioning refugees’ worth in the UK and Europe (even though the Manchester bomber was a Manchester-born, UK citizen), and a glaring scrutiny of the Muslim faith. Politicians would line up and offer their “thoughts and prayers.” It all seems repetitive.

The blasts at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena above Victoria Station remind me of how precious life is. I was there just a little over a year ago, and I rode the bus through the area of London where the 7/7 attacks occurred. I lived in Tokyo a year after the sarin attack on its subway system. London Mayor Sadiq Khan aroused uproar from the right when he stated last year that terror attacks were “part and parcel” of living in a major city. Predictably, Mayor Khan’s words were misconstrued—he merely meant that in the modern era, cities must be adequately prepared for the inevitability of an attack. Is he wrong? A society that adequately prepares itself for the worst possible events is a society best prepared to deal with those events. Are we to look at sexual assault, murder, and other violence as “terrible,” and fail to prepare for what would happen next? Absolutely not.

While there remains the inevitability that horrible events will occur in the future, there will also be horrible responses. The likes of Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins will espouse absurdity for more clicks and in turn demand more action from the Muslim community. I ask Morgan, a self-proclaimed Catholic as I am: Are we responsible for the epidemic of child abuse in Catholic Churches around the world? Is that our fault? Must we admit responsibility for each priest who makes a conscious decision, independent of Catholic doctrine, to abuse a child?

This is the last thing we should do—ask more of a community that has already been through enough and who bear no resemblance to murderers. Fundamentalism is fundamentalism. White Supremacists wants to see nothing more than their race to be the dominant race, just as fundamentalist Muslims wish to see themselves as the dominant force. Radical Islam is far more similar to white Supremacy than it is to moderate Islam.

Never am I, a white man, forced to consistently respond and denounce the actions of individuals who share my skin color, or my religious heritage. At no point did anyone ask me about the white nationalist event that occurred in my home state of Virginia. The Katie Hopkins/Piers Morgans of the world never once commented on the issue, nor assumed responsibility themselves. In their own, idiotic worldview, do they consider themselves complicit in white nationalist demonstrations? In child abuse crimes? Not at all, but still they demand answers from moderate Muslims worldwide.

Studies have affirmed that it is often the second-generation immigrants who are most vulnerable to extremism, a fact further affirmed by the Manchester bomber, whose parents fled Libya years ago. First-generation immigrants flee for their lives and have undergone life-altering hardships for the safety of their children. Yet, growing up in a country that sees them as “other,” and originating from a country that also views them as other, many children grow up with identity issues. When young Muslims grow up in the United States watching a presidential candidate call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the nation, they feel anything but American. When they return to their family’s country of origin, they are seen as American or Western. An online community lures these young, impressionable individuals in, convincing them that America hates them, and when they see the president of the United States on television affirming that, they buy into those claims.

As I’ve said before, there’s nobody to blame but the murderers themselves—no community bears responsibility for heinous acts like the Manchester bombing, no race or religion is to blame.