Manchester and the nature of modern terror attacks

Once again, terrorism targets the centre of another European city. Another attack on its people. People who were just trying to have a good time. It was another suicide attack. And once again, “ISIS” has claimed responsibility, even before the police made anything public.

The choice of venue to attack – the Manchester MEN Arena, a Arianna Grande concert. This means that among the victims are many children and young people. Those who can remember their teenage years, or who have kids this age themselves, know how exciting these kinds of evenings are for young people. They know how happy and animated these kids are when they come home. And then to fall into the hands of such a brutal murderer… there is no terrorist cause on the planet that could possibly justify such an act. How sick must the person be who consciously targets such young victims?

I’ve been working in the media for close to ten years and it has become like a deja vu experience with each terrorist attack. All the news outlets carry the same headlines: “Chronology of terrorism,” “What we know and what we don’t know.” Then there the meaningless eye-witness reports: “People started screaming and then they ran away”. What else would they do? Then there are the numerous reactions from the celebrities, politicians and ordinary members of the public who want to show their anguish but their comments just appear interchangeable from each other as if they are going through the motions. Since early morning, people have been taking to Twitter, for what its worth: Everyone’s thoughts are with the victims, and all civilized nations are showing their solidarity with Britain. Whatever that actually means, on a day like today.

It should also be mentioned that the Eifel Tower and other world monuments would have gone dark tonight. It is, of course, a symbol of grief that will be shown to all news outlets this morning. Just like the pictures of the British Prime Minister at the scene of the attack and of the memorial services in Manchester that will be held. All this shows that Europe, which has become a regular target for Islamic terrorists, has by now a well-established routine for dealing with such shock. These are rituals that serve to hide the fact that there is no easy or quick, effective answer in dealing with the struggle against terrorism. And that no such answer will be found either.

And by tomorrow , life will go on as if nothing ever happened. People will still attend football games, go shopping or to an public event. They might have an uneasy feeling but they will still go. And this is because they have accepted the possibility of terrorism as normal. Right-wing extremists would see this as a sign of weakness and continue to rant about banning all Muslims from our country. But everyone else sees this as a sign of strength because people are not being intimidated or brought down by terrorism.

I would like to remember Manchester by the kindness of the people who live there and how the city rallied together to show our better nature in the wake of this disaster, like the woman who led about 50 unaccompanied teenagers to a nearby hotel and helped alert their families that they were safe until they could be picked up; or the efforts of a T-shirt seller and two homeless men at the venue to offer first aid and comfort to the wounded and dying.

We should celebrate the local businesses like Costco, Tesco and Iceland who provided food and drinks to police responding to, and investigating, the scene, and the countless souls who used social media to offer cups of tea, a place to charge mobile phones or housing for those stranded after the city center went in to lockdown. That includes the numerous Muslim taxi drivers that offered free rides home to those in the area and the Muslim doctors who worked through the night to treat the injured. In just two days, over £700,000 has already been raised by nearly 28,000 contributors through a crowdfunding effort set up by the Manchester Evening News on the site

There will be plenty of time to continue discussions about how to prevent the most deranged and desperate among us from resorting to violence, whether due to Islamic extremism or other motivations, but amidst the grief and the heartache of another tragedy, it also does us some good to remind ourselves of the kindness, tolerance and freedom which most of our society values and strives to embody.


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