Manchester is in mourning. Our spirited city is struggling to come to terms with the unfathomable atrocity that took the lives of 22 innocent victims and injured 59 more. We’ll never understand or make sense of such a monstrous act, a cowardly suicide bomber murdering and maiming our city’s citizens, many of whom were children and teenagers, as they left a pop concert in the city on Monday night.
What Manchester can, and is, showing is the same multicultural passion that makes our city so inclusive and unique. That spirit is what will prevail and conquer. Falling victim to Islamophobia and hatred would deflate our city’s vivacious, multi-ethnic soul. It would mean cowardly, bigoted hatred triumphs the cultural embrace that gives Manchester its distinct identity.
Sadly, callous, inconceivable acts of terror striking fear in cities around Europe act as a breeding ground for Islamophobia. As the horrendous reality of Monday evening’s attack set in, just hours after the bomb exploded, social media became ablaze with angst, acting as a forum for people to show their shock, remorse and anger.
It didn’t take long for spurious tweets and posts to find their way onto the social platforms – posts with an “I told you so” undertone, spawned from ultra-right sympathisers attempting to find some kind of comfort and solace by sharing anti-Muslim tirades. One such figure was Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, who has a long history of demonising Muslims. In one tweet, Hopkins, who is renowned for her bigoted rants, called for a “final solution” as part of her broader anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Despite the following Hopkins manages to muster on the extreme right, widespread condemnation quickly mounted against her for her use of the Nazi term. Hopkins was reported to the police and the columnist was forced to delete her Nazi-esque tweet.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who once described Muslim immigrants as coming from a “backward religion,” was also condemned for making divisive and reactionary commentary. Pearson was criticised for calling for the “internment of thousands of terror suspects now to protect our children.”
At the same time, the Sun, a tabloid newspaper, not known for mincing words, has once again dug itself into an irrevocable hole as a newspaper that distastefully politicises tragedies for its own political gain. In 1989, the city of Liverpool boycotted the Sun in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, whereby the tabloid newspaper collaborated with local police to place the blame for 96 deaths at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster on Liverpool fans.
Now, an uncanny resemblance to Liverpool’s boycott of the Sun has reared its head in the aftermath of this week’s Manchester bombing. Showing similar solidarity to its neighbouring city, the people of Manchester are pushing for a boycott of the tabloid. Revealing its repugnant colours once more, the Sun ran a story that was an overt manipulation of a tragic event to serve its own political objectives. On a day when all General Election campaigning was put on hold for mourning, the Sun ran an anti-Corbyn slur on its front page, accusing the Labour leader of having “blood on his hands”.
In united spirit, Mancunians, like the people of Liverpool in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, are taking action against the disgraced newspaper, launching a petition for the city to initiate a boycott. In just several days the petition has garnered tens of thousands of signatures, as Mancunians and others show their support and solidarity for stamping out bigotry and political manipulation in the mainstream media.
The condemnation of the commentators for showing reactionary, anti-Muslim intolerance, and the shunning of a media outlet for inexcusably using an event of extreme heartbreak for its own political objectives, is representative of Manchester’s impassioned multicultural acceptance.
Over the centuries, people of all walks of life have made Manchester their home. With almost 200 different languages spoken here, Manchester is hailed as the most linguistically-diverse city in Western Europe. Greater Manchester is home to the largest Jewish community outside London. Manchester University ranks amongst the world’s best, welcoming more than 40,000 students a year from 160 countries.
The city’s character is very much defined by its people and the multi-ethnicity of its streets. In the aftermath of Monday’s terror attack, Manchester’s solidarity shined through as mourners of all backgrounds gathered united across the city and suburbs to show their respect, grief and support.
As Greater Manchester Police’s Ian Hopkins said, addressing a crowd at a vigil in the city centre’s Albert Square: “We must all stand together and not let the terrorists defeat us, not let them stop us going about our daily business and create fear, and we must all live in harmony with each other as we stand together and defeat terrorism.”
The stark truth is that the prevailing threat of terrorism is a new reality that inflicts fear and terror into the lives of people living across Europe. As Manchester sadly saw this week, cowardly zealots are capable of the most unconscionable of acts. The cherished liberal freedoms that cities like Manchester have long embraced may have to be in some ways compromised as a result of the radical ideology.
But what they’ll never take away is our valiant solidarity. I am proud of my city: its strong industrial roots, its passion for music and football, its unrivalled multiculturalism. But above all, I’m proud of our city’s unitedness and the people of Manchester’s drive to quash Islamophobia and bigotry from our streets during one of our darkest hours.