Evil Terrorist Attack in Manchester: What we Know
Manchester bomber Salman Abedi, was possibly not acting alone, Amber Rudd, the home secretary said. The suicide bomber who killed 22 people and injured 64 more before blowing himself up after an Ariana Grande concert on Monday night, was also likely working with other terrorists, she added. Three more people were arrested in connection with the attack. A man carrying a knife was also arrested near Buckingham Palace, but the incident isn’t related to terrorism.
With terrorism threat level raised from severe to critical, on Tuesday night, fears of a possible attack are looming. 1,000 soldiers have been deployed in key sites like Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. On Tuesday, the PM, Theresa May, announced that election campaigning will be postponed until Thursday, when Ukip will also launch its manifesto.
Who was Salman Abedi?
Born in Manchester in 1994, Abedi has three siblings, and his family is of Libyan origin. He attended Salford University and is believed that he recently returned from Libya. Isis has claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack but this hasn’t been confirmed yet.
He is considered a “mule”, meaning that he was carrying an explosive device made by someone else. He was known to intelligence services as a peripheral figure. His 23-year-old brother was arrested on Tuesday.
According to a US intelligence official, Abedi had ties to Al-Qaeda and received terrorist training abroad.
Irrational violence and Isis
There is something incomprehensive about the cold and abstract face of violence. Irrational and despicable acts of violence like Isis terrorist attacks are unpredictable, mad and beyond the pale. They are violent and horrible acts driven by hatred and envy against western societies and their values.
It’s not accidental that in the face of such horror, many reporters or politicians are inclined to put a face on the culprit and search to blame people, organisations or anyone who might fit, in some cases, their political views or vested interests. This is why we have people like Katie Hopkins who, wanting to draw attention to herself, claimed responsibility. Others, like Milo Yiannopoulos, have equally caused outrage by seeking to criticise figures who represent the opposite of their ideology. As an alt-right spokesperson, Yiannopoulos has expressed his views against feminism and its dangers so, when he blamed Ariana Grande for the Manchester attack, accusing her of being “ferociously pro-immigrant, pro-Islam and anti-America”, he was seeking to attack western women, their freedoms and liberal ideas.
But, perhaps the reason for the desire to name the attacker or put a face to the crime is the fact that we need to control what appears uncontrollable and irrational. No longer interested in attacking military or governmental targets, the way other militant groups like Al-Qaeda had done in the past, Isis is less predictable and, instead, has shown that the group is interested in attacking “lifestyle” places: pubs and nightclubs. According to Jason Burke, “In recent years a shift has occurred: attacks on “lifestyle” targets have become increasingly common. In France, recent extremist attacks have occurred at the Louvre museum, on the Champs Elysées shopping street, and on the promenade of Nice during the annual 14 July celebrations.” This shift can be explained by looking at the targets. Military bases and government offices are more protected in comparison to public places, concerts or shopping centres. Isis “relies on escalating brutality to terrorise target populations, whether in the west or the Middle East” (Burke, The Guardian).
But is also the fact that Isis sees western culture as threatening and “shameless,” in the same way that people like Milo Yiannopoulos and the alt-right would also blame Ariana Grande or liberal freedoms as corruptive and dangerous, whilst defending a patriarchal society that subjugates all values to the rule of the one—whether a religious paternal figure or a political leader. The young male Islamic extremist would also follow a similar puritanical view of the world where the excesses of western capitalism need to be reined in by the destructive work of Isis fighters.
According to the French philosopher Alain Badiou, the radicalisation of Muslims can be called a “fascisation”. This fundamental fascism is based on the feeling of envy. This envy is the reversal of the desire for the west as a promised land, a desire which for many refugees or immigrants is never fulfilled. When the dream fails or the desire for this paradisiacal place isn’t satisfied, this turns into its nihilist alternative where envy becomes hatred and hatred is turned into an instinct of pure violence. For Badiou, this envy is radicalised into a ruthless and violent destructive hatred against the west and its people.
Isis then is the expression of pure evil. The terrorist or Isis fighter is an evil and not an egotistical, selfish individual who thinks of his interests. As Slavoj Zizek writes, the “primary vice of a bad person is that he is more preoccupied with others than with himself.” The Isis terrorist then is in many ways the frustrated immigrant youth who is unable to feel comfortable within the confines of his western lifestyle and chooses the risky path of a religious sacrifice, that is nothing else but an act of senseless death and the delusion of a vacuous cause.
What is terrifying with such acts is that they can happen anywhere and at any time. The threat is there, and it cannot be contained because such acts aren’t predictable. As Burke says, “[v]iolent Islamic extremists want to convince us that we face a threat that is as ubiquitous as it is unpredictable.” And this is why terrorism is frightening and why, at moments like this, communities need to come together.