* A sea of flowers and tributes to the victims of the Manchester attacks.

Large scale violent attacks have rocked Europe in the last years, with France bearing the brunt of these attacks. In the UK we have witnessed two shockingly brutal attacks within two months, the latest being the devastating attacks in Manchester Arena.

One of the youngest victims was the 8 year old Saffie Rose Roussos, who lost her life beside her mother who is now in intensive care. Her mother Lisa does not know that her daughter has passed. Twenty-one others were killed while 59 were injured. The nation’s pain is still very raw. Few understand why and how it happened. Life must go on for those who have lost loved ones. And yet there is hope.

The reaction of the public has been overwhelmingly positive and, even as the confusion recedes and anger rises, the voice of reason has not been drowned out by calls for revenge.

The collective sentiment was beautifully captured by Ian, a blood donor, who simply said: “We can react in anger or react by doing”.

A failed 17 years of ‘security theatre’

Unfortunately the first to capitalise on these atrocities are some politicians who seek to demonstrate ‘strength’, through repeating catchphrases and strengthening failed policies.

The mainstream media also contributes to a general feeling of fear and anxiety. Their high octane coverage only captures and facilitates emotional responses that are completely devoid of reason and lead to actions which do not make us any safer.

We are told to surrender our rights for greater security, to accept outrageous policies like “Muslim Bans”. We are told that it is better to build walls rather than bridges, and to antagonise and alienate communities through discriminatory legislation, rather than fostering their sense of belonging.

We need to have empathy with each other

Nobody can empathise better with the parents and families of the victims of Manchester, than the parents and families in Syria and other war zones in the Middle East, who pick through the rubble of bomb sites to find their children.

US-led coalition  airstrikes in Syria alone have killed almost 1,500 civilians including 319 children since 2014. 44 of those children were killed this month.

Salman Abedi’s sister, Jomana, told US media: “I think he [Salman] saw children – Muslim children – dying everywhere, and wanted revenge.”

We say – rightly and repeatedly – that there can be no justification for murder under any circumstances.

Michael Portillo, the former secretary of defence and former leader of Conservative Party said last night, “It is not clear to me that these interventions that we’ve made in predominantly Muslim countries have done more to spread terrorism than they have to arouse disgruntlement.”

Similarly the leader of the Green party, Jonathan Bartley said: “If we’re going to beat terrorism we need both adequate security measures at home and a look at how Britain’s role in world affairs can have serious unintended consequences which lead to greater insecurity.”

We need to ask the right questions

The government is required to take steps to maintain the safety and security of the public and bring perpetrators to account. That is not only understandable but necessary. There are, however, serious questions that need answers.

Arriving at real solutions requires a level of deep introspection and honest re-evaluation of failing policies, the complete opposite to the sensationalist, reactionary attitude we have been shown by some sections of the media and aggressive politicians .

There could be no stronger evidence that the raft of unparalleled anti-terror measures and laws spanning this country over two decades have utterly failed. We are not safer at home, and neither are the countries in which the UK and allies intervened militarily any safer.

The leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn in a speech today made very clear that, “we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working. ”

As our outreach director rightly said: “There must be a point at which this country stops and asks an extremely serious question: why has everything it has done to fight terrorism internally and externally for 17 years only made the threat worse than it’s ever been?”

We do not want to see any more children killed in our – or anyone else’s – streets. Our leaders must meet this challenge with honesty and maturity or step aside. Nor do we want to see mosques burned down or women in hijab attacked.

As the Manchester blood donor Ian so aptly said: “We’ve got to look after each other now, don’t we?”

This is a time for us to have the courage to look beyond the rhetoric and wade into areas that we find uncomfortable . We cannot sling slurs against those who proffer a different approach. We owe it to the victims of the horror that is our reality from Manchester to Aleppo – all lives are valuable.


(CC image courtesy of pdjohnson on Flickr)

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)