The terrorist organization Islamic State has officially claimed responsibility for the vicious attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on Monday that left 22 people killed — many of them children — and injured at least 59. It was not immediately clear whether the attack was ordered or inspired by the Islamic State.
British police have identified the suicide bomber behind the deadliest terrorist atrocity on UK soil in a decade as 22-year-old Salman Abedi. Born in Manchester in 1994 as the youngest of four children, he was the son of Libyan refugees who fled to the UK to escape the wrath of the Gaddafi regime in the late 1980s.
An entire country in shock is asking what it was about an arena full of kids, listening to their favorite pop star, that so offended the man as to cause him to detonate a bomb at the venue with the clear intention to inflict as much bloodshed as possible.
It did not take long for Islamic State to answer. Once again, the terrorists and their sympathizers have celebrated, with much public fanfare, their unspeakable act of cruelty as a legitimate response to Western imperialist aggression in Muslim countries.
In a statement released by their news agency Amaq just hours after the attack, the group asserted it was a revenge operation carried out on “infidels…in response to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims.”
“With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah [caliphate] managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the crusaders in the British city of Manchester,” it said.
And yet again, too many self-hating Westerners are blindly swallowing their propaganda, too terrified of admitting the true nature of the threat that we face, paralyzed by a misguided sense of perpetual guilt.
No, it is not our bombs that “trigger” disadvantaged young men to drive cars into pedestrians. It is not our drones that “make” them cut the throat of an old rabbi at a bus stop. It is not our intervention in Muslim countries that “forces” them to blow themselves up among a crowd of young children at a concert.
It is not us. It is them. It is their wretched, poisonous ideology that exports death, mayhem, and panic. It is not our love for everything beautiful in this world. It is their contempt for life itself, grounded in an ideology that only knows the language of violence and destruction. And it has a name: Islamism.
It is the same ideology in which name they murder their own girls for seeking an education. Or slaughter them for dancing in the rain. Or stone them to death for having insulted the family’s honor after a brutal gang-rape.
The Ariana Grande concert was not a random target. This was a deliberate and calculated jihadist terrorist attack against a group of people they particularly despise: Western girls and women whose strength, choice, and independence make them feel threatened.
It fits a grim litany of crimes. Soft targets such as nightclubs and concert halls have been targeted before in Paris, Orlando, and Istanbul and it is the sad reality with which Israel has been dealing with for decades. The car rammings, the knife attacks, and other ways to kill infidels. Israel, in many ways, is the ground zero of modern terrorism.
The same ideology responsible for British authorities now having to collect and piece together what is left of the bodies of our children in the heart of Manchester, claimed the lives of 21 Israelis, 16 of them teenagers, when suicide bomber Said Khutari blew himself up at the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv in 2001 at the height of the second intifada. He, too, murdered in the name of Islamic jihad and had ties to Hamas.
Terrorist groups come in different shapes and forms. They operate under their own names and are tied to local contexts. But, ultimately, they are united in the same Islamist fanaticism that leads Hamas to wrap suicide vests around children in Gaza just as it makes Islamic State ban music by sword wherever they go.
Try blaming that on Western foreign policy and you quickly run out of arguments. What connects the dots between terrorist attacks across the world — from Jerusalem to Manchester or Baghdad and Stockholm — is the global jihadist insurgency that has declared war on our way of life.
Julie Lenarz is a senior fellow at The Israel Project and the executive director of the Human Security Centre, an independent foreign policy think tank based in London. She tweets at @msjulielenarz
[Photo: ABC News]