By Farooq Sulehria
May 31, 2017
The suicide attack on Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester has evoked a predictable knee-jerk response from various left-liberal circles in the UK. For instance, an organ of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) claimed: “The appalling bombing in Manchester is one event in a series of horrors sparked by wars and interventions in the Middle East”. There was not a word condemning Islamic fundamentalism.
On May 24, in an interview with Democracy Now, Tariq Ali termed it a likely blowback from the war on terror. Likewise, in his erudite piece for the daily Independent, Robert Fisk digs out the story of Algerian Emir, Abdelkader, who resisted French colonialism but was a strong practitioner of religious plurality. As the emir, he had Jewish and Christian people in his cabinet and during his exile he saved the lives of 10,000 Christian when Muslims attacked them. Fisk concludes by claiming that Isis does not represent Muslims and there are other contenders such as Emir Abdelkader.
That Salman Abedi was a British-born youth of Libyan origin often leads to another familiar ‘explanation’: discrimination faced by Muslims in European countries engenders terror.
These explanations only serve as justifications for the horrendous crimes committed by fanatics. There are academics who have discovered rationality even in fanaticism.
In the first place, the blowback theory does not explain the unending wave of terror in Muslim countries. From sufi shrines to Shia processions and Coptic churches to Hindu temples, suicide bombers have aimed at targets that they consider to be un-Islamic or deviant.
Secondly, this blowback theory does not explain why only youth with fundamentalist persuasions explode in the Western metropolitans. I have not heard of a single suicide mission by a Marxist or a liberal youth of Muslim origin who is angry about the US invasion of Iraq.
Thirdly, Muslim countries are not uniquely on the receiving-end of imperial wars. Latin American, East Asian and African countries have been targets of overt and covert imperial wars. I am not aware of any Castroists arriving in the land of Big Satan to massacre children.
Likewise, blaming discrimination for acts of terror committed by puritan fanatics in Western cities is simply unconvincing. In the first place, the Muslim diaspora is not the only discriminated community in European or North American towns. In the UK alone, communities from all former British colonies have settled in considerable numbers.
Racists look at people’s skin colour before their faith. However, I am not aware of radicalised Hindus or agitated Caribbean community planting bombs in the underground. Minorities in Muslim countries are ruthlessly discriminated. And yet, one does not find Christians or Hindus or Yazidis dispatching Fidayeen to blow defenceless neighbours.
Manchester, Paris, Brussels, Stockholm or even 9/11 cannot be explained as mere blowback. Instead, they involve a Takfiri method. The driving force behind this method is the ideology of religious fundamentalism that justifies violence against ‘infidels’.
The problem with blowback theorists is their inability to confront Islamic fundamentalism. It remains politically correct and safe to scream blowback. Confronting the fundamentalists poses theoretical, organisational and political challenges. An additional problem with the leftist justifications for puritan violence in Manchester and other cities is that it translates internationally into support for the Taliban. They are delineated as “anti-imperialists”. However, it is never too late to reconsider this. One hopes that the European left comes out of this comfort zone.
Farooq Sulehria is a freelance contributor.