Editor’s note: In this article, John Robson argues that the Islamist terror attack on a pop concert in Manchester is an attack on the West simply for who we are. The obvious conclusion, then, is that we must come to grips with certain tenets of Islam that motivate terrorists to act. Motion M-103, and especially any law that might arise from it, would serve to stifle this very necessary conversation.
Young Manchester Survivor Describes Attack
Once again, we find ourselves aghast at a terrorist atrocity. Once again, we seek to console, rebuild and carry on. And once again, we wonder what it can all mean.
Consolation is the first task. And we must carry on, seeking better security without shrinking into lives of fear. But we must also recognize, again, that these people hate us not for what we do but for who we are.
Consider the choice of target: an Ariana Grande concert. Not a gathering of police officers, soldiers, politicians, Christians, Jews or even “capitalists.” Young people having fun at a pop concert. Why them?
Part of the answer is that it’s random. Terrorism aims to be unpredictable.
Part is convenience. The terrorists were presumably looking for a “soft” target and a concert is far easier to attack than a government building or a major sports event nowadays. Or at least, sort of. (It would be possible to hit a crowd pouring out of a hockey game in Canada, or a soccer match in Britain, avoiding tight security at the actual venue entrances, just as it was possible to hit people bunched together leaving a concert.)
Partly, it was a decision to massacre the most innocent: teens and even children. Of the dozens who were injured, roughly a fifth were under 16; roughly a dozen remain in hospital. The youngest confirmed fatality was just eight. And of those adults present, a high proportion were accompanying their children. Islamists proudly declare that they are in love with death. Their rejection of life, joy, hope and affirmation in every form is underlined by their choice of victims in this instance. In fact, I have wanted to put this thought in print for a long time and it’s time to say it out loud: if your religion loves death, you are worshipping the wrong supernatural being.
But there’s another partial explanation: our cultural permissiveness. The National Post on Wednesday profiled one young survivor, who came from Aberdeen to attend her first Ariana Grande concert. The concert was a surprise present for her 11th birthday. (One would be hard-pressed to find a more ghastly target for such an attack, a more deliberate betrayal of innocence.) As the Post said, “The final lines of the American star’s provocative pop anthem, ‘Dangerous Woman,’ still rang in Stacey Brown’s ears” when the bomb went off.
I decided to look up the lyrics of this “provocative pop anthem.” I was curious what counts as provocative nowadays. I suspect if you really wanted to provoke people you’d sing about a girl who saves sex for marriage, rejects abortion and so on. But there’s little danger of such “provocation” on the modern cultural scene. And to say the least, that’s not the tenor of “Dangerous Woman.” It features lyrics like “All that you got, skin to skin, oh my God/ Don’t ya stop, boy” and “somethin’ ‘bout you / Makes me wanna do things that I shouldn’t” and “All girls wanna be like that / Bad girls underneath, like that.”
Frankly, I do wonder whether parents should be taking pre-teens to a concert to sway and sing along to lyrics I presume they would refuse to read aloud deadpan to those same children at the dinner table. Whoa, whoa, you may say. What a cranky irrelevant fuddy-duddy. Modernity has left you behind. And perhaps it has. But if so, it’s directly relevant here.
We backwards “right-wingers” who express pointed concerns about militant Islam are often dismissed by progressives as reactionary and provocative, even as bigots. But Islamists are not at war with conservatives. They’re at war with Western society generally. And among the things they most loathe is its permissiveness.
To repeat, a terrorist attack is primarily a personal tragedy calling for help and consolation on the one hand, especially in the immediate aftermath, and resolution on the other. Residents of Manchester have already done both. And Ariana Grande has obeyed the first imperative in suspending her tour out of respect for the victims, which is tactful and appropriate, though I would also have supported carrying defiantly on had that been her choice. But what we must not do, immediately or in the long run, is to delude ourselves about the meaning of the attack, the intentions of such terrorists or what we can do to protect ourselves.
Too often we do so. We underestimate the depth and source of their hostility. Sometimes we even do so in intellectually partisan terms, suggesting that this or that foreign policy action or politicians’ statement has provoked our enemies. And in doing so, we miss what is hidden in plain sight.
As Terry Glavin, Fred Litwin and others have repeatedly noted in Canada, it is astounding that militant Muslim hostility toward gays attracts so little notice and condemnation on the left. Islamists may rant about “Zionists” and “Crusaders” but their hatred runs far deeper. It is bizarre for supporters of gay marriage to want to boycott Israel but wink at Hamas and Iran. And when radical maniacs well-known to security services carry out a slaughter like the one in Manchester, progressives do not draw the obvious lesson: It’s not us. It’s them.
Islamists don’t hate the West because of Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” And you can’t appease them with multiculturalism, transgender sensitivity or atheism. They hate the open society of the West for who we are, not what we do.
It’s no accident that they massacre children having fun at a “provocative” pop concert. It’s who they are. Again.
This article was originally published by the National Post on May 25, 2017, and can be viewed on their website by clicking here.