The bomb blast attack at the Manchester Arena which hosted the celebrity pop singer Ariana Grande concert came two months after the Westminster attack. This horrific attack has shocked the city and among the casualties, there have been children and teenagers. The attack has set fear, anxiety and trauma among those directly and indirectly affected and residents in the city and UK.
Like always, politicians, leaders of different communities, mainstream media in unison have raised a liberal voice. All formal communication of all parties and community organisations state the tone, “city will not allow terrorism to divide the communities." All have condemned the act as a barbaric act of cowardice, an act of extremism, terrorism but none have made any statement that would bruise the sentiments and emotions of the Muslim community.
The Indian Diaspora, including the right wing organisations here like the VHP, have joined hands here with multi-faith organisations to forge cohesion among communities. So in that sense, the spirit of cohesiveness is intact and careful responsible speeches are centre stage.
Residents broadly agree that they have to deal with the reality of the attack at the same time as communities have to pull together with each other.
However, on private Whatsapp groups, ethnic minorities, especially some Indians, have identified this as an attack from Muslim fundamentalists. This dichotomy is glaring. Both the mainstream British and ethnic minority would not hesitate to say that all terrorists are Muslims but would also add that all Muslims are not terrorists. This fair and liberal approach is in sharp contrast when compared to India where social media would usually attack liberal thought as fiberals, sickular etc and the Left would attack the fundamentalists as right wing, saffron, bhakts, trolls etc. Among Indians, this debate is not fierce here on social media and there is restraint and control.
Most Indian young professionals are second and third generation British of Indian descent but have grown up in the multi-faith atmosphere.
Undoubtedly, there is an element of fear and anxiety. There is defiance but people at large prefer to support existing government with trust. Manchester is a strong multicultural, diverse community and demographically, Pakistanis constitute the largest percentage among ethnic communities in the city.
For multiple political social and cultural reasons, there is never a frontal criticism against the Muslim community and radicalisation experts too propagate the view that the Muslim youth is integrated in the mainstream and not responsible for terrorism and extremism. Thus, terrorism and extremism is delinked from Islam and this is a vigorous campaign which is successful in building a cohesive community.
The humanitarian spirit is definitely very strong and residents of Manchester (Mancunians) were showing their compassionate side just after the incident. Within an hour of reports of the blast, people began offering spare rooms and beds to people stranded in the city using the hashtag #RoomForManchester.
What is of concern is that the Islamic State supporters celebrated the attack on social media as a victory against “the crusaders” of the West. “This is only the beginning. The lions of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham are beginning to attack all the crusaders,” a masked man said in the short video which put the authorities wear their strategic thinking cap and raise the alert level.
What is gruesome and shocking to note is the fact that Islamic State supporters said the attack was revenge for Britain’s involvement in the bombing campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. One user wrote that it seems that the bombs of the British air force over children of Mosul and Raqqa has just come back to Manchester.
The UK has faced 13 serious terrorist plots since the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in May 2013, the Met police’s assistant commissioner and national lead on counter-terror policing, Mark Rowley, said in a BBC interview in March.
UK residents recall that the Manchester city attack on Monday is the deadliest terror attack to hit the UK since the 7/7 London bombings in July 2005.
Historically, various police and government reports reveal that this is the third time that Britain had raised the threat level to 'critical'. On 10 August, 2006, the terror level was raised to critical after the government foiled a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs.
The second time was on 30 June, 2007, after two men who had tried to bomb a London nightclub, slammed an SUV into entrance doors at Glasgow Airport.
The author is a Manchester-based senior journalist.
Updated Date: May 25, 2017 11:26 AM