| by Will TG Miller |
While each one of the three terrorist attacks to have taken place over the last three months in the UK is a profound call of concern, the case of the second should have been the easiest to solve. Unlike the more recent attack in London, the only direct perpetrator behind the Manchester attack was Salman Abedi, making the task of tracing the cause of the incident much easier.
However, when the links between Salman Abedi, his immediate family, and a potential terrorist cell operating out of Manchester to a mosque in Didsbury became known, their first response was denial. Didsbury Mosque trustee Fawzi Haffar is quoted as saying “We don’t know who he is… We’ve never seen him.” During a Question Time segment on the Manchester Attack, one woman in the audience, who claimed to have attended the mosque for over 30 years, feigned ignorance when another audience member brought forward an anti-Western and Islamic- supremacist piece of propaganda that he had been handed while visiting the mosque on a Sunday open day. Deny, deny, deny appeared to be the mosque’s official policy.
A revised release from the mosque put out recently tells us what we already know. Salman Abedi was a regular attendant at the mosque. Yet now, of course, the story has changed; we are told that Abedi was in fact kicked out of the mosque, or he was reported to counterterrorism services (which may actually be a lie, according to police), or he was a regular drinker and drug- user whose behavior reflects little of traditional Islamic values. We are told, effectively, that Salman Abedi was not a “true Muslim,” that he was not welcome at Didsbury Mosque, and that Islam and the mosque itself have no responsibility for his actions. The incomprehensible fact that horrified bystanders were forced to pull nails out of the faces of little girls at a pop concert because of the actions of a man who received his ideological education at this institution is apparently not a basis enough to condemn it.
Perhaps the most terrible aspect of this terrorist attack, and the inescapable repercussions which will likely stay with the survivors until they die, is that there is no possibility for closure. There is no possibility to rectify the problem. There is not even anyone we can blame except Abedi himself — a clearly nonsensical solution, because normal British 22 year olds, however underperforming they might be, do not typically undertake suicide operations with nail bombs as so to kill and maim as many young children and parents as possible. These victims, as well as the wider British public, are prevented from knowing why exactly this happened in an act of collective obfuscation so utterly criminal it might as well be investigated alongside the act itself.
Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham says that Abedi was “a terrorist, not a Muslim.” Articles in Salon and The Telegraph, which narrativize the Manchester Attack as a misogynistic anti- women attack with no Islamic or Islamist connection, are so disgustingly mendacious as to turn the reader’s fist into a ball.
There really is little logic to this mass deception; Burnham’s statements that Abedi “no more represents Muslims than Jo Cox’s killer represents white people” is similar to ones I’ve dealt with before. Readers should not need explanation as to the incomparability between the biological category of the “white race”, or people of European descent, and the religion of Islam, with its commandments as laid out in the Qur’an and the Hadith. It’s as inane as comparing the category of people with dark hair to communists (I am not aware of a connection, but remain open to all corrections).
What all of this amounts to is that pursuit for the responsibility of this atrocity is actively being prevented. The mosque’s denialism is reinforced by the deceitful illogic deliberately spread by politicians such as Burnham, whose only goals are to keep their jobs and minimize current levels of unrest. The problem is the fact that this policy of abetting the cover-up of any culpability on the part of either the Mosque or its religious ideology is almost certainly going to have the opposite effect.
We first saw this with Tommy Robinson’s English Defense League, which came out of Luton, a town in England with uncontrollable levels of intercommunal hatred between native English and Muslims. Tommy Robinson originally formed the EDL to solve the problem of the perceived lack of response by the police and local authorities to the issue of extremism and supremacism emerging from the Muslim community in Luton, which he connected with hate crimes and grooming gangs targeting white English. Of course, this situation led to tensions becoming even worse.
The truth behind this is the tendency of people faced with the inability to identify perpetrators to seek collective solutions. This is the same simplistic logic a teacher uses when giving the whole class a detention for crudely-scrawled swearwords on the chalkboard when nobody comes forward to make an admission of guilt. The sense is that something has to be done, and if one individual or group of individuals are not identifiable as perpetrators, blame ends up being levied at the whole collective.
Psychologists Jordan Peterson and Maya Djikic have noted how the inability to identify perpetrators after a conflict can lead to cycles of intercommunal strife that continually worsen. This was what happened in Luton, where the failure to adequately respond to the perceive injustices felt by the English residents of the town led to intercommunal conflict, mass protests, and outbreaks of fighting on the streets. People cannot just “keep calm and carry on? if the threats they perceive remain undiminished, able to reoccur at any time.
All of this comes back to Didsbury Mosque, which looks set to avoid punishment for its role in creating the terrorist known as Salman Abedi — whatever this role might have been. Peterson tells us that without recognition of the official level, cycles of violence can be born which last for generations. As unfortunate as it is to admit, when deprived of the ability to identify any group, religion, or ideology responsible for educating Salman Abedi with his genocidal beliefs, it does not seem unlikely that the Manchester Bombing — a terroristic and wicked attack against the British people through their most innocent and vulnerable children — could inspire revenge attacks against the community from which Abedi emerged.
The terrible irony of our good-intentioned mass denialism and obfuscation, then, is that it may well be responsible for producing the exact kind of violence and hatred against the Muslim community in Britain that it aims to prevent.
Will TG Miller is a graduate student at the Yenching Institute in Beijing. You can connect with him on Twitter @WillTGMiller