As with so many, I am deeply angered by the attack from last night. I could offer all the usual condolences but it would all sound rather trite from me. So I’ll do what I usually do: offer some kind of analysis, this time political rather than theological.
What will the fallout of this be? Well, it is worth reminding ourselves of what we so far know: that this was probably the actions of a lone wolf [Edit: evidence now suggests other people being involved], a Muslim called Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent. The Independent sates:
Local reports said Abedi was the child of Libyan refugees who moved to the UK to flee Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, and was one of four children.
He was said to have been known to police and the intelligence services.
This is massively important because it will shape the way that people will react to the atrocity. Because he is Muslim, and the son of refugees, the right will delight in reacting in its very typical way. There will no doubt be otherisation and retaliation (a Manchester mosque has already been victim to an arson attack).
We are two weeks away from a general election. This couldn’t have happened at a time that would have a more tangible effect on the country. At a time when Labour have been enjoying a surge from their initially poor ratings, they will no doubt take a hit. Labour have generally been far more open to immigration and have been critical of the tiny number of refugees that the UK has taken in, from the likes of Syria and Libya.
It will be Labour who suffer as many in the country will have intuitive reactions against Islam and against immigration, retreating into classical political psychology of us and them, purity, tradition and conservative values. The Conservative Party have a much stronger reputation for being harsher on security and immigration, better on the Armed Forces, and suchlike. It is into their hands that this terrible event will play. This tragedy could well have sealed a resounding Tory victory.
Again (as I have done before), it is worth noting that this is exactly what Islamic terrorist groups want. As I stated in that previous piece (before Trump as elected, as he stigmatised Muslims):
- People in society are afraid of terrorists and outsiders.
- Trump plays into this to create a solid niche support base.
- ISIS (and any other nefarious group or individual) recognise this. They realise that creating more havoc will get Trump more support. They want Trump elected because…
- they know that he will be Islamaphobic. Islamophobia plays into the ISIS (etc.) narrative. If people fear Muslims, it creates an “us” and “them” culture. This further alienates Muslims as moderates and liberals are prejudiced against and tarred with the same brush. This is a simplistic good guys/bad guys narrative.
- The victim narrative perpetuated by the more hardline Muslims, claiming oppression, will feed into the moderates’ fears that society really is against them, and in the case of a Trump administration, they really would be against them.
- This drives moderates into fundamentalism, and into the arms of ISIS, and drives liberals to be more moderate and sympathetic of the hardliners.
- Everyone loses.
So not only does this play into the hands of the Conservative political agenda but, in turn, this will play into the victim narrative of fundamental Islam.