I want to begin by saying that I do not speak for nor do I claim to speak for everyone. And I don’t know everything. I speak for me and of what I know. In fact if anyone has any relevant resources or links to things I’ve said here, I’d love if you posted them in the comments.
I’ve just seen that Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, was known to UK security services. Two friends of Abedi called the counter-terrorism hotline on two separate occasions about his behaviour. His mosque banned him and reported him to Prevent (an anti-radicalisation programme). His family called the police. And as we know, Muslim leaders and imams consistently condemn Daesh (ISIS). But Muslims and Islam are still put on trial.
Say it with me, folks: Islam is not a race, but Islam is a racialised religion, therefore You Are Still A Racist!
In this holy month of Ramadan, I beg you. Let us be sad. Let Muslims be sad. Let us mourn the dead without having to fear what you’ll do to us, what you’ll say to us. My friend Amena Ziard, writer and co-host of The Race Card, put it like this:
I wish we could mourn and send our love and prayers for the souls/people lost and to their families, without having to fear Islamophobia in response to the same tragedy, or have to deal with it and defend ourselves too.
Even though I’m away, my heart is in Manchester. It will always, always be my home. I’ve been to countless concerts at that arena. Back when it was still called the Nynex and up until just before I left. From All Saints to Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s on the Wall tour to Walking with Dinosaurs. It’s not lost on me that that could’ve been any concert. That could’ve been me.
It infuriates me that we are so quick to share that steaming pile of poop Piers Morgan’s thoughts about whether Muslim communities are doing enough (yeah hi hello I see you folks liking and commenting on your mate’s gross garbage). But we don’t want to ask: aren’t there people who are supposedly here to protect us?
There are people, entire branches of the government and intelligence secret services, ones we know about and ones we don’t, whose job it is to know what’s going to happen and when. And they do know. They did know.
This isn’t the time to write people off as whacky conspiracy theorists. What I’m saying is, sometimes, more often than we think, these authorities do nothing. They quietly observe while unhinged people carry out horrific acts. It’s shocking and despicable, and the sad fact is it’s more convenient for our leaders to drum up propaganda and fear among us than to prioritise our safety.
Whether it’s fear of different folks here in Australia or abroad, when it comes to dominant groups dehumanising peoples from marginalised groups, our leaders light the fire and the press fans the flames. Once you dehumanise peoples, it’s a mandate for murder. Fear of the Other™. And that’s what sells war, that’s what gives certain referendums their momentum and that’s what gets certain politicians elected.
If my community is to be put on trial, can we please consider that working class folks are disproportionately BME [black and minority ethnic]. That many BME immigrants and their descendants come from former colonies and carry complex intergenerational trauma. That prolonged marginalisation can have seriously damaging and traumatic consequences for physical and mental health. That many turn to substance use – which I don’t think is necessarily always a bad thing but which without proper education and support, can really mess people up (i.e. psychosis) – and that all demographics do not have the same access to public services. There is no such thing as equal access to mental health education and awareness. There is no such thing as a meritocracy.
I know. It’s horrible. A lot of us Mancs know people who were there that night. Children have died. Friends have died. It is devastating and I honestly can’t comprehend how their families feel. But if we want to effectively Prevent™ terrorism, we have to move away from band-aid solutions and we have to be real when we’re pointing the finger of blame. There is no excuse for killing innocents in the name of political and opportunistic gains anywhere.
Even Murdoch-mouthpiece Sky News recently invited Anne Aly, counter-terrorism expert, academic and MP for Cowan, to discuss the causes of this type of violence. In the interview, Aly explained that although marginalisation is a factor, another common thread among young men who commit these acts is the relationship between violence and hypermasculinity. Aly says that a lot of these young men “weren’t what we would say cognitively radicalised, they were behaviourally radicalised”. She believes a desire for violence is the motivator.
Aly also points out that particularly since the advent of Daesh, young extremists can sometimes be spiritual amateurs. That is to say, when it comes to Islam they have no clue what they’re on about. This was plainly illustrated when it was widely reported that some British Muslims had purchased copies of Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies before heading to Syria. So perhaps pinning everything on ideology is reductive and lazy. Mohammed Alyahya writes in the New York Times that even where religious belief is a significant motivator, the relationship between specific ideologies and violent actions is chronically oversimplified and misunderstood. Alyahya says that blaming ideology “distracts from the complex political, economic and psychological reasons people join terrorist groups [and]impedes our ability to effectively fight terrorism.”
Although Daesh are quick to claim responsibility for every attack, it’s important to take these claims with a grain of salt. They try to establish a sense of omnipresence. Making them seem more influential than they are is exactly what they want us to do. Not only does it inflate their egos, it feeds into Islamophobic fear, thus further alienating impressionable young people. Editor, writer and strategist Roj Amedi reminds us of the important distinction between violence on the home front and abroad. She writes:
I think there is a huge difference between terrorism enacted by violent groups indiscriminately on mostly Muslim populations in West Asia and Africa – which are the cause for the majority of worldwide terrorist related deaths, and occur due to power vacuums and instability. Versus lone wolves or small groups of Western born people who are disgruntled in one shape or form, isolate themselves from their broader life and community and enact violence.
Make no mistake, whether invasions in Iraq or drones in Pakistan, imperialism is a vicious cycle and a money-making scam. The Islamophobia Industrial Complex is profitable. Our governments can and do throw us all under the bus for the benefit of greedy corporations. Not to mention our civil liberties being continuously eroded in an Orwellian nightmare made very frigging real by Theresa May from her time as Home Secretary to now. All in the name of ‘protecting’ us.
From who, Ms. May? You and your war machine pals? There’s a reason all the Murdoch media and cross-party committees of war-mongers and New Labour Blairites try their hardest to trash Jeremy Corbyn. Now although I am absolutely voting Labour on Thursday, I can appreciate that Corbyn is by no means perfect. I worry what the party’s rhetoric surrounding police cuts will mean for the future militarisation of our society. Plus both major parties are bending to dog-whistle politics about Saudi Arabia. While there’s no excusing their human rights record, I acknowledge that homophobia and patriarchal misogyny are globally pervasive.
I am also wary of how anti-Saudi rhetoric is manipulated and used as the acceptable face of Islamophobia in some ways. Particularly by those who incorrectly view Saudi Arabia as the Muslim version of the Vatican rather than a nation state and political entity in its own right with its own vested interests. And usually this rhetoric comes without comment on Western countries’ own culpability in the War on Terror. In fact, since I started writing this another attack has happened in London and Theresa May has the gall to say that the UK is too tolerant of extremism. In the past two years, we have sold over £3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. That is ten times more than what we gave in aid to Yemen, the country that Saudi is using our weapons on.
While I find it hypocritical that we go on women’s marches to protest what is happening stateside yet ignore our own PM’s record regarding the most marginalised, I find it beyond comprehension that our leaders will sooner blame the Muslim diaspora, put the onus on us as a nation to espouse “British values” and clean their hands of any wrongdoing, than admit the role they play in waging conflict and creating blowback.
But nah, let’s ignore all of that. Let’s ignore that the UK government operated an “open door” policy allowing British Libyans to travel overseas and join rebels in the (UK and US-sponsored) overthrow of Gaddafi. Let’s ignore that black and brown kids are stopped and searched regularly in a guilty-until-proven-innocent process, and that our communities have been under heavy surveillance for decades. Let’s believe that a lad from Fallowfield could pull off a mastermind plot without any security agents knowing. Let’s overlook the studies and overwhelming evidence that show “homegrown radicalisation” is caused by psychological and sociological rather than ideological factors. Let’s blame an entire demographic of peoples made up of so many traditions, sects and cultures instead. Look how well it’s been working so far.
Cover image by Tomasz “odder” Kozlowski (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons