This week on Foreign Correspondent Hamish Macdonald speaks with Manchester’s Muslim community following the tragedy surrounding the Ariana Grande concert.
After all the grief & fury -how does a city recover?
After one of its own sons bombed the Ariana Grande pop concert, killing 22 people and injuring 116 more, the city of Manchester put on a brave face.
“Everyone’s standing together,” says young local James. “There’s just no hate at all here,” says his friend Olivia.
If only it were that simple. For all the tolerance that Manchester has shown after the attack, the spotlight turned quickly to its Libyan community, where the 22-year-old bomber came from.
“Enough is enough,” declared Prime Minister Teresa May, warning of “difficult and embarrassing conversations” with Muslims, who account for about five per cent of Britain’s population, and 16 per cent of Manchester’s.
Yet her government refuses to release a controversial report that is believed to detail Saudi funding of extremist groups in the UK. Saudi Arabia is a strong ally of Britain, which is a major supplier of military equipment to the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
So now Manchester’s Muslims are under pressure to come up with answers no one else has. As reporter Hamish MacDonald discovers, many are asking themselves the question: what can I do when an atrocity is committed in my name?
For Sumayya, a 15-year-old Ariana Grande fan, there is no answer, just confusion. She was at the concert and was traumatised by seeing the bloodshed. But she also cops the public backlash: “People look at me like, ‘You’re a Muslim, you must be like a terrorist or something.'”
Psychologist Amna leads a group of women who hit the streets to engage with the wider community. But at home she grapples with what to tell her kids about Islam and terrorism. She chokes up as she describes her daughter telling her: “I can understand why they hate us now.”
Libyan community leader Hashem loves the city that gave him refuge from the Gaddafi regime 41 years ago. He feels shame that a Libyan bombed the concert, and regrets that he and others somehow did not stop it. It’s a big responsibility for anybody to own.
“We have to say there has been a naïveté,” he says. “I think possibly society is right in saying, ‘Hey Libyans, you have to stand up and be counted and own up to this.'”
Local councillor Amina Lone claims Islam has been hijacked by conservatives and needs to change. To make her point she takes Foreign Correspondent to a suburban mosque where women don’t have space to pray.
“It makes me angry,” she says. “It feels like you’re a second-class citizen.”
In Manchester, Hamish Macdonald finds a community struggling for solutions, but at one in its willingness to engage in those “difficult and embarrassing conversations”.
Tuesday July 25 at 9.20 pm on ABC.