Terrorism – An Attack On Democracy
This was not the article, I was going to write this month, but once again, due to events back home in The UK, I have decided to dedicate my column to the lives of the 22 people, men, women and children, who lost their lives, in the Manchester suicide attack, on 22 May 2017 and the 8 who were killed, after an attack on London bridge on 3 June 2017. In this article, I want to concentrate on the Manchester attack, although all lives lost, is a travesty. In many respects, we have all become somewhat immune, to the violence we see around us. Whether on television, the news, or during our daily activity, there seems to be ferocious, aggressive and barbaric images, everywhere. As a child growing up in the 1970s, I can’t recall the same level of indiscriminate barbarity; children of a similar age now, are subject to visions, they should never be exposed too.
On the night of 22 May, 21,000 people packed into the Manchester Arena to see Ariana Grande perform, in front of a crowd, that consisted mainly, of young girls and children, Ariana’s core fan base. Happy smiling faces, enjoying the music of their idol, with family and friends. As Ariana, concluded her gig and the lights came on in the foyer, people began to leave the auditorium, still on a natural high from the music, they had just heard. Suddenly, without warning, a 22 year old Muslim man, Salman Ramadan Abedi, blew himself up in front of hundreds of people leaving the Manchester Arena.
When I awoke on Tuesday morning and switched on the television, I sat in horror at what I was witnessing. The death of 19 people and 59 others, taken to hospitals, in and around Manchester. A home grown terrorist, the son of Libyan refugees, who escaped to Britain, under the Gaddafi regime. Britain gave this family asylum, opened its doors to them and many others in their unfortunate position; we had invited a killer into our midst and we never knew it!
I know Manchester well, having lived there for a number of years. In 1996, myself and my partner were there, when an IRA bomb exploded in the city centre. We were only there for a few days, but the spirit of Manchester shone through. Mancunians rallied together this time also, stood firm, helped one another, offered free rooms, to those stranded after the bombing and Manchester’s taxi drivers, came out in force, driving the victims home, free of charge. Britain’s third largest city, showed its greatness, through love and compassion, unlike Salman, who looked into the eyes of children and indiscriminately blew them up; a contrast that is stark; In times of adversity humanity comes to the fore, while all around, mayhem and murder ensue! The death toll rose to 22; there will be intense soul searching, as all of us look for answers, as to why this happened. I believe the dangers were always there, we have just refused to acknowledge them, for fear of being labelled racist or discriminatory.
My generation and older are well aware of the dangers of terrorism. We grew up at a time of IRA bombings. When I was young, you couldn’t open a newspaper, without reading about another murder, at the hands of one extreme Irish group or another; although the brutality we witness today, is on an altogether, different scale. As the threat from Northern Ireland abated, we became less vigilant and less aware of the risks of terrorism. Now is the time, we need to relearn the lessons of the past and overcome the destructive nature of terrorism.
Peoples views about what happened in Manchester, are blunt and to the point. This is a subject, no one has avoided talking about, some more intonated than others. As Britain begins to pick up the pieces of the Manchester and London attacks, trying to find solutions to the problems, of home grown terrorism, the Expats who live in Gran Alacant are clear, about what they believe is responsible and I just happen to agree with them.
As a Nation, Britain has been ready to offer asylum to people who genuinely need it. I am well aware that there are those that deserve our help and generosity, but I am also mindful, that there are others who seek to obtain asylum, for dubious or false reasons. The World is dealing with terrorist organisations, that have no regard for life and would stop at nothing to destroy us. The UK has to check, recheck and vet potential asylum seekers, granting asylum, only when they can confirm their identities. Stronger scrutinizing will at least begin, to tackle the problems of extremism.
Salman was radicalised whilst living in the UK; last month I touched on the subject of Islam and home grown terrorism, so don’t want to dwell too much on this topic. I do however want to stress once again, the importance of the Muslim community, working together, to flush out radicals. They have a duty and responsibility to re-educate the youngest and most vulnerable members of their groups, steering them away from radicalisation, towards a path of peaceful integration. Murder is not a solution. Northern Ireland enjoys a peaceful coexistence with Britain, because of dialogue, allowing all groups to play their part in the political process.
After the terrorist attack in Manchester, campaigning in the General Election was suspended, briefly; politicking seen as inappropriate, while people lie in hospital. Soldiers were deployed to key strategic areas, open to terrorist attack, as the threat level in the UK rose from severe to critical; It seemed an attack was inevitable. notwithstanding all of this, the UK election took place on 8 June; Mrs May and the Conservative Party, lost their Paliamentary majority, forming an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, in a nail biting General Election. The political process was interrupted, as all sides of the political argument showed their respect for the dead and injured, but it did continue, in the wake of this dreadful atrocity. Mrs May will now have to deal with the scourge of terrorism and Brexit, in a weaker position. Despite what has happened, I am firmly of the view, that Britain should not close the drawbridge, stop immigration completely and look inwards. Isolationism never works; we have a duty to fight for those who need our assistance, whilst remaining firm against terrorists. Only her election failure will hinder that task!
So it’s been a difficult month back home in the UK, as Britain struggles to get back to normal after a terrible terrorist attack. The Prime minister, Theresa May now has to tackle some of the issues, that have turned radicalised young men and women, into suicide bombers; difficult with no majority in Parliament. People are not born to kill; other more sinister individuals, indoctrinate potential victims into their web of lies and misinformation. These are the so called jihadists, who are interpreting the Quran, for their own destructive ends; embracing the unprotected, teaching the unguarded and using the vulnerable, to further their own agenda. It is up to our new Government, to stop this growing problem; only firm action will work. The time for teetering on the periphery is over; I wish Mrs May lots of luck, as she navigates her way through shared Government at this difficult time, as I’m sure we all do!