While I flip my remote control button of TV in my hotel room in Central London keeping an eye on my wife who has been down with high fever since her arrival in London on May 22 suddenly I stop on a news channel which flashed on its screen ‘Explosion in Manchester concert. Many feared dead.’ It was around 11 in the night. In early summer sunsets in Britain are at around 9.15.
My heart stops beating. Shall it be another ‘Islamist’ bombing whose credit will be claimed by IS putting everyday life of millions of Muslims in Britain and all over Europe in jeopardy fearing public backlash? I remain awake throughout the night though I have a very important seminar to attend in the morning where I will be speaking on the progress of Higher Education in Bangladesh to an audience gathered from eighty odd countries from around the world. As the night breaks into dawn, things become clearer. Thousands, mostly teenagers and young children gathered at the Manchester Arena to listen to US pop-star Ariana Grande (23) perform. Ariana has been very popular amongst her age group and youngsters in and around Manchester have been waiting for some times to hear her in person. Many travelled to Manchester from London and other adjoining cities. As the concert ended and the audiences were leaving for home, suddenly there was a deafening explosion and lightning flash near the adjacent foyer. The next thing most of the surviving witnesses heard was shrieks and moans of dying and seriously injured children, women, Christians, Jews and Muslims. Many parents who came to take their children home saw their loved ones fall before their eyes. It was the most tragic moment in the history of Manchester, for Mancunians, the inhabitants of Manchester. The Mancunians have many things to be proud of and definitely not events like bombing a concert killing so many innocents. In the last count 22 people perished that night, some as young as eight, 119 are injured and 20 are registered to be critical. Surely the IS claimed the killer was one of theirs.
Manchester has a traditional past with miles of slums, most occupied by refugees from Arab countries, the countries that were destroyed by the evil axis of Bush-Blair in the name of war against terror. Unfortunately the war has come back to their own backyard to haunt them and to destroy the lives of millions of peace loving people in Europe and the United States. It is the result of completely flawed foreign policy from a mediocre President and a Prime Minister. The Manchester slums are legacy of the city’s leadership of the Industrial Revolution. World’s modern textile industry was invented here. Whitworth, Nasmith AV Roe and Roll-Royce developed revolutionary discoveries in engineering, Ferranti in electronics, John Dalton in chemistry – according to Sir Harold Evans writing for the Evening Standard on 24 May. The first pilots to fly the Atlantic non-stop were two former Manchester central High School students, JW Alcock and AW Brown. It was at Manchester University that Ernest Rutherford split the nucleus of the atom, Hans Geiger invented his Geiger counter and William Jevons devised his “Logic Piano”, the photo computer, the first machine which enabled a problem to be solved faster with the machine rather than without, continued Sir Evans.
After the Second World War the landscape of this city began to change, roads became wider, downtown tall buildings sprang up, its universities and schools gained world fame, slums began to slowly recede and whatever remained were occupied by immigrants from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Somalia and soon after the Bush-Blair’s ‘War on Terror’ the city saw influx of refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The asylum seekers and Arab students often turn into peddling Islam but in the evening settle for ‘Halal Whisky’ and beer and order non-halal meat.
The 23rd May suicide bomber was identified as Salman Abedi, 22. Born in Manchester, he was the second of four children whose parents were Libyan refugees who fled to the UK to escape the regime to Muammar Gaddafi. Abedi’s parents Ramadan and Samia lived in Living in London before relocating to Manchester where Abedi was born. Salman and his wife returned to Libya in 2011 to help overthrow Gaddafi. He is thought to have made several trips there in recent years. His friends said he even went back to Libya three weeks ago to return few days before the bloody incident. The French intelligence disclosed Abedi may have also travelled to Syria on a number of occasions, became radicalised and decided to commit the May 23rd massacre. Salman was a Salford University dropout and is alleged to have been an associate of another Mancunian Libyan, Abdalrouf Abdallah, 24, who was jailed for nine and a half years last year for funding terrorism by helping jihadist travel to Syria. According to the Evening Standard the streets of South Manchester has become a safe home to Islamist extremism. According to the Imam of a local mosque Abedi did not like his anti-militancy sermons in his Friday sermons, his attendance in the mosque became less and less and finally he stopped coming. He began to grow long beard, put on long Arab dress and would loudly chant verses from the Holy Qur’an on streets and often just disappear (perhaps making trips either to Libya or Syria). Every time the Manchester type tragic incident happens somewhere in Europe, every Muslim becomes a suspect and sometimes backlash do happen on innocent Muslims.
Manchester observes a minute silence for the victims of the bomb attack
In London usually one does not come across people from the military but after the incident the streets of London are full of not only armed to the teeth military personnel but also people from law enforcement agencies of all shapes and sizes. The Change of Guard at the Palace was cancelled and closed to public. The Old Bailey’s (Supreme Court System) public galleries were also shut and all game venues, including The Oval, where Bangladesh is scheduled to play in the Champions Trophy on June 1, is put under extra surveillance. The Team Australia has threatened that they may pull out of the game which may cause the organisers millions of pounds and India announced that they would like to be assured of better security. If Bangladesh decided to pull out of the game, financially it would be a disaster as no game so far has been a sell-out other than the ones where Bangladesh is playing. England has more than two million Bangladeshis. Incidentally no country has given any travel alert to its nationals regarding travel to England. Ironically if such an incident happened in Bangladesh, all countries would have raised multiple red-flags. The UK government is furious over the failure of its own intelligence. Fortunately no backlash has so far been reported.
On Wednesday evening I took a taxi to East London, the home of Bangladeshis to see their reaction to Manchester mayhem. In East London, once renamed as Banglatown, the business is as usual. The Bangladeshi owned restaurants and grocery shops are closing down at a much rapid pace than it happened two decades ago. The Turks, the Brazilians, the Lebanese are proving better retailers and service providers. The Bangladeshis are more involved with petty and meaningless politics. In a restaurant I saw a corner full of Bangladeshis claiming themselves to be the supporters of a large political party back home and are busy fighting as to who should be the next party candidate in the forthcoming election of Bangladesh. They are busy trying to prove the party policymakers redundant. It is ‘we decided and you nominate’ type of stuff.
I talked to a local Bangla TV journalist. He said in the coming month of Ramadan all eight Bangla TV stations will discontinue their regular programmes and till the beginning of the Shehri the half educated professional Mullah’s will be selling tickets to heaven for the faithful and their families. The cost of each ticket will be from GBP 100 to 500. The fast tracked ones will cost more. The simple Bangladeshis can be easily taken for a ride. Millions of GBP are raised in the name of philanthropy in each month of Ramadan by Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Nigerian TV channels in Britain and US with no accountability and not bothering to disclose much as to where most of these funds are being channelled into. It has been a common belief that a bulk of it goes for financing militancy. Britain has unfortunately been identified as a fertile breeding ground of ‘Islamist’ militants. I asked couple of people in East London have they heard anything of the Manchester bombing? Most of them shrugged their shoulder and walked away. For three to four generations most of them have lived in Britain, refused to keep track of events happening in the land they live in, are more involved with politics back home but are not bothered much about the forthcoming British election scheduled for June 8. Those who could get into the socio-political life of Britain have made their way to the top of professional lives and some have even found their way to the House of Lords and House of Commons.
My prayers are for the victims of the Manchester massacre.