How to Respond to the Atrocity in Manchester? Keep Calm AND Face Up to Reality!

By MARCUS STEAD

TERROR attacks in major European cities have become semi-normalised. What would have shocked us 20 years ago now causes a much briefer pause to the routines of day-to-day life.

A number of politicians have today made comparisons between Monday night’s suicide bomb at the Manchester Arena to the IRA bomb which devastated the city centre in 1996.

This was a crass comparison. However despicable and morally diseased the IRA were, they did at least issue a phone warning prior to the Manchester bomb, which caused £700 million worth of damage to the city centre. There were no fatalities, but more than 200 people were injured.

Monday night’s suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, issued no warning. He wasn’t motivated by a desire to cause the sort of economic disruption the 1996 bomb brought. He sought to kill people in the name of Islam, many of them young, all of them innocent. At the time of writing, 22 are dead, 59 are injured, and many more will be suffering the psychological effects of Abedi’s actions.

A certain routine kicks in after each atrocity. Politicians blurt out platitudes about how the terrorists ‘will not be allowed to destroy our way of life’ and how ‘we will not be defeated’. Even Andy Burnham, the newly-elected Mayor of Manchester, dared to say, “Today it will be business as usual as far as possible in our great city” less than 12 hours after the atrocity.

The Facebook emojis, the cutesy hashtags on Twitter, the candle lit vigils and hastily-arranged memorial services come next, and within days, life returns to normal. Make no mistake, by the start of next week, the insipid, vacuous general election campaign will have resumed in full swing. And that is exactly how our political classes want it, because any deeper analysis would force us to look into how decisions they have taken over the last few decades have contributed to these atrocities. More on that later.

When deciding how to proceed from here, it is important not to allow our emotions to affect our decisions. Yes, we are all feeling upset and angry at the moment. We’re all too acutely aware that on another day, in another place, any one of us could have been caught up in this. Instead of hysterical calls for us to shut down mosques or bomb men in caves in faraway lands, it is best to take stock of what we actually know about this, and similar attacks in other European cities.

The perpetrator of the Nice attack in July 2016, Mohamed Salmene Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, never went near a mosque. He was a drunk and a drug user with a long history of mental health problems, who was radicalised by watching online content.

The Berlin Christmas Market attack, later that same year, was carried out by Anis Amari, a Tunisian failed asylum seeker and a drug abuser, who was radicalised in Italian jails. Amari was a thief, an arsonist and a bar brawler.

The Westminster attacker of March 2017 had been in prison three times, including one conviction for stabbing a man in the face, in addition to a string of other criminal convictions for lesser offences. It appears he was radicalised in jail, or by watching material on the internet.

Some who knew him say he was a cannabis user (which in itself can lead to permanent mental health problems, regardless of propaganda which states otherwise) and a bodybuilder, which means he may have been taking steroids – powerful, mind-altering drugs that were used by mass murderers Anders Breivik, Raoul Moat and Omar Mateen.

A pattern is emerging here, is it not?

There are two logical conclusions we can reach from this:

  1. We know there are serious problems in prisons of Muslim radicalisation, Muslim gangs, and prisoners being forced to convert to Islam in return for a tolerable life in prison. It’s clear that in some prisons, the wardens and others in authority have lost control. Muslims in prison need to be detained separately from other prisoners, and measures need to be taken to improve prison discipline in general.
  1. The influence of the internet on some people, which is worthy of a more detailed explanation.

My generation, and generations before me, grew up in an era of regulated television. Bad language was not tolerated before the 9pm watershed, and even after it, certain words had to be used sparingly, or not at all.

Nudity was not acceptable before the watershed, and even after it, broadcasters had to exercise caution and restraint. The same applied to violence.

There were rules, at all times of the day and night, to prevent extremist views or the incitement of violence from being aired.

By comparison, the internet is the Wild West. Anybody with even a basic understanding of computers can access all kinds of pornography, including child pornography, scenes of extreme violence, both acted out and real, foul language, and political and cultural extremism. Laws to prevent some of these things may, in theory, exist, but the global and unregulated nature of the internet makes such laws very difficult to enforce.

We all need to exercise a certain amount of judgement and restraint when it comes to the entertainment we consume. We have all heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’. It means that if you eat the wrong foods, you will become overweight and ill, and your wellbeing will suffer.

That same principle applies to entertainment. There is nothing wrong with being entertained, but we have a duty to ourselves to ensure that we are watching something wholesome. Scenes which would have appeared shocking just 20 years ago now pass without controversy. We have become desensitised to bad language, violence and aggression. The moral compass and behavioural standards of individuals and society as a whole has been lowered because of what passes for ‘entertainment’ in 2017.

Similarly, drug users, the mentally unstable and the easily manipulated are accessing Islamic extremist literature and videos on the internet that would rightly never be shown on TV or be available in a book in any shop or library. There are no restrictions on what they can access, no taste and decency barriers on what they see.

The radicalising is not for the most part being done in mosques or Islamic community centres, but in prison cells and in front of computer screens. This makes it a far more difficult problem to combat.

This does not mean that ordinary Muslims do not bear some responsibility for the situation the UK, and indeed all of Europe now finds itself in.

Part of the ‘routine’ of terrorist attacks in Europe is that about three days afterwards, the Muslim ‘good news’ story emerges. After several days of being told that Islam has nothing to do with the attack, we are told that Muslims are participating in some generous ‘reaching out’ gesture to the wider community.

In reality, almost all of these efforts are carried out by Ahmadiyya Muslims, a tiny sect who have faced many decades of persecution from other Muslim groups, many of whom do not consider them to be Muslims at all.

If you see Muslims selling poppies in early November, they are almost certainly Ahmadiyya. Within days of the Berlin attack, groups of Muslims were seen attending church in Germany. The mainstream media reported that ‘Muslims’ were doing this. In fact, they were Ahmadiyya. The Independent newspaper reported that: “Muslims handing out t-shirts reading “love for all, hate for none” at a vigil in Berlin have said they will not allow the city to become more divided following Monday’s attack on a Christmas market.”

Now for the reality check: ‘Love for all, hate for none’ is an Ahmadiyya campaign. A solidarity protest around the same period was populated by Muslim men wearing T-shirts saying ‘Muslime für Frieden’ (‘Muslims for peace’), which, funnily enough, is an Ahmadiyya slogan. If you look at the back of the t-shirts in question they direct you to an Ahmadiyya website.

In July 2016, Fr Jacques Hamal, an 85-year-old priest in Normandy was brutally murdered while celebrating Mass by terrorists claiming to be from Islamic State.

A few days later, the ‘Muslim good news’ story arrived, as usual, and this time it was that Muslims had been attending Mass across France and Italy in solidarity with Christians. Unsurprisingly, closer examination reveals that in most cases the Muslim attendees were from the Ahmadiyya sect. The BBC, the Guardian and the Independent all left that important fact out of their reports for some reason.

The day after the Westminster terror attack in March 2017, Muslim women held hands in a protest on Westminster Bridge condemning the culprit, Khalid Masood. Once again, yes, you’ve guessed it, they were Ahmadiyya Muslims.

The journalist Sunny Hundal took issue with me pointing this fact out on Twitter and encouraged me to read this article from the Independent which stated that London Muslims (non-Ahmadiyya) raised £17,000 in 24 hours for victims of the Westminster terror attacks and their families. Well, there are at least 800,000 Muslims living in London, so you do the maths.

There is a serious problem brewing in UK one which we can no longer afford to ignore. The Muslim population has grown enormously in a very short space of time. The 1961 census put the figure at 50,000.  By 1991, that number had grown to 950,000. Ten years later, it stood at 1,600,000, and in 2011 it was 2,706,000. A 2014 estimate pushes the figure above three million for the first time.

Muslims are, on average, younger than the rest of the population and have more children. You do not need to be a mathematical genius to work out what this means. Add to the fact that net migration to the UK stands at 273,000 per year, a significant number of whom are Muslims, and it’s clear what the direction of travel is.

To those outside the UK, we have a sort of unofficial apartheid in this country. Muslims and non-Muslims use the same public transport and walk the same town centre streets, but they barely mix at all for the rest of the time.

There are all sorts of reasons for this, which are mainly to do with cultural attitudes. Muslims are not permitted to drink alcohol, so you cannot expect to get to know them over a pint, or invite them to the pub quiz team. Men and women mixing socially is frowned upon by many Muslims.

Here’s something that a surprising number of non-Muslims don’t know: A significant number of Muslims believe all music is haram (forbidden), many more still will only listen to music based on Islamic prayer. You are highly unlikely to find many Muslims who have much interest in secular music.

So we cannot bond over alcohol, or music, and Muslims are told that dogs are unclean, so don’t expect to find many while out in the local park walking yours. There is little common ground between them and us culturally and socially. That is the uncomfortable truth.

But it goes deeper than that. In every major city, and in many smaller towns, unofficial Sharia courts operate for the local Muslim community. Under Sharia law, the evidence of a woman is worth half that of a man, even if it is blatantly obvious she is telling the truth.

Many people will feel uncomfortable with Muslims having a separate set of laws and standards to the rest of us on matters such as divorce and domestic violence, but that is the reality. Participation in Sharia courts is voluntary, in theory at least, but in reality, it would take a very brave Muslim woman to defy them or refuse to participate.

Let me be clear, I am not saying that all Muslims are bad, or that everything about Islam is bad. I admire certain aspects of Islam – its belief in a work ethic (sitting around claiming benefits is frowned upon), its commitment to family, the value it puts on education, the discipline the faith requires, such as fasting during Ramadan, and the way it instructs its followers to refrain from alcohol, drugs and gambling.

On the other hand, there are aspects of the Islamic faith that give me serious cause for concern. I reject its claim to be the one true faith, and dislike the way non-Muslims are treated in many Muslim majority countries. I believe the Islamic faith has a very nasty strain of anti-Semitism running through it. Parts of the Qur’an, particularly towards the end, give me cause for concern, particularly since Muslims are instructed to follow the example of the Prophet Mohammed. I also do not believe that being a Muslim should be a valid excuse for barbaric Halal slaughter in our country.

I find it concerning that more than half of British Muslims (52%) surveyed last year believe that homosexuality should be illegal, and that 39% believe that wives should always obey their husbands.

Most concerning of all is that the survey found that more than 100,000 British Muslims sympathise with suicide bombers and only one in three (34%) would contact the police if they believed that somebody close to them had become involved with jihadists.

Look, let’s stop pretending. These appalling attitudes and opinions are not confined to a ‘tiny minority’ of Muslims living in Britain. Such views are held by a sizeable minority, however uncomfortable that makes us feel. And the facts back it up.

I live in Cardiff, where in December 2013, two men, Kristen Brekke and Aseel Muthana, made a video in a park near a supermarket where they pretended to be ISIS fighters. Brekke was later jailed for helping Muthana join ISIS in Syria, where his elder brother Nasser was already fighting.

Nasser and Reyaad Khan made a 13-minute ISIS video calling on other British Muslims to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq. Both attended St David’s Catholic College in Cardiff, where I also studied in the early 2000s.

In 2014, ISIS openly held a recruitment drive at a public barbecue in a popular beauty spot a few miles outside Cardiff. Within a few months, the population at large new what ISIS was.

Am I seriously being asked to believe that none of Cardiff’s 30,000 Muslims could have alerted the authorities in advance of either of these incidents?

Or what about the Al Manar Mosque they attended in the Cathays area of the city, where two years later Ali Hammuda was secretly filmed telling male worshippers that they can have women as slaves? He later claimed these comments to impressionable young men had been taken ‘out of context’, yet to my knowledge, he is still preaching at the mosque. Why is this considered in any way acceptable?

Similarly, in Rotherham, at least 1,400 girls were groomed and abused by a Muslim sex ring from the late 1980s until the 2010s, yet in that large town with its sizeable Muslim population, there was a wall of silence. This pattern repeated itself in Oxford and Oldham on a smaller scale.

The vast majority of Muslims do not abuse children, and I am quite prepared to believe that a majority did not know that children were being abused in these towns. I am also prepared to believe that a large number of Cardiff’s Muslims were unaware of the ISIS connections among their own community.

Yet British Muslims can be well-organised, loud and vocal when it suits them to be. In 2006, around 3,500 Muslims took the time and trouble to protest outside the Danish Embassy in London after a little-read newspaper in that country published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

In 2015, following the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in the tacky, little-read French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, more than 100,000 British Muslims signed a petition delivered to Downing St in which they called for ‘global civility’ and stated that the production of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are “an affront to the norms of civilised society”. Many thousands marched in a London protest on the matter.

Is it really too much to ask of them to conjure up that same level of enthusiasm and alert the authorities of extremists, potential terrorists and child abusers living among their communities?

I realise these are uncomfortable truths for the politically correct classes who live in a sort of multicultural dreamland bubble. I understand that speaking out may jeopardise their promotion prospects, particularly if they work in the public sector, and they risk being excluded from the fashionable dinner party circuits in which they mix.

But we have now reached the stage where turning a blind eye to reality has resulted in people paying with their lives. And they don’t come much more innocent than the people in the Manchester Arena last Monday night.

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Author: Marcus Stead

I am a freelance journalist and author living in Cardiff, UK. In my career to date, I have worked in newspaper, radio and online journalism. I have also had three sports biographies published, on jockey Frankie Dettori, rugby star Brian O'Driscoll and controversial cricketer Kevin Pietersen. The purpose of this blog is to give you a chance to read some of my work that has not yet been published in print form. If you wish to use any of this material, please drop me an email at: marcusstead@hotmail.co.uk. I am willing to adapt or expand the work in question to suit your publication.

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