Ten days after the Manchester terror attack, some of the wounded are only just coming round - and being informed that their children are among the dead. This weekend there will be an all-star pop concert, about which the victims' families are said to be somewhat divided (dread word). But in the wider world, notwithstanding the deliberate targeting of young girls, those who adopted hashtags and re-cast their avatars for Nice and Brussels and Paris are already moving on. It's hard to be shocked by the routine. One becomes habituated to the habitual. I see the Eiffel Tower, which dims its lights for the victims of terror attacks, was dark for the third time this week. You get the feeling someone somewhere deep in the Paris bureaucracy wishes they could quietly amend the policy and restrict it to three-figure body counts.
One senses, too, that in the western world's new security state subtle, darker calibrations are being made. According to Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, "This man [the perpetrator] was a terrorist, not a Muslim." For the British security state, it's about keeping the problem manageable: There are too many Muslims, but there are fewer terrorists. Even then, there are too many to keep an eye on. Shortly before the bombing, Salman Abedi returned from the jihad-riddled failed state of Libya to his "home" town of Manchester via the immigration officers of three Nato members - Turkey, Germany, and finally the United Kingdom. He sailed through all of them, unimpeded. In January, the FBI fingered him to MI5. The spooks did nothing. France's Interior Minister said that, according to his intelligence services, Mr Abedi had been in Syria. But a lot of Brits fall into that category, don't they? The Didsbury Mosque reported him to the Government's "Prevent" program for tackling "extremism". The chaps at "Prevent" declined to prevent him. Four acquaintances of Mr Abedi alerted the authorities. It could have been 40, or 400.
The haystack is full of needles, and the state has to prioritize. Despite the FBI tip, and the concerns of his mosque, and the frequent trips to Club Jihad paid for by British taxpayers out of his government student loans, Salman Abedi could not catch the authorities' eye. One suspects there will be rather more of this in the years ahead. The preferred euphemism of British politicians for the likes of Mr Abedi is "extremist". But there are an awful lot of moderate extremists out there, so you'll have to be a really extreme extremist to jostle your way through the pack to the point where anybody notices you.
Terrorism is not the problem, but merely a manifestation of it. You glimpse the scale of it in the world in which Salman Abedi lived the entirety of his brief life. Salman Abedi's parents fled a brutal dictatorship and were generously given refuge by a country of incomparably greater liberty and opportunity. Their son was born in Manchester and passed all his 22 years in a heavily Muslim area of the city. "He was such a quiet boy, always very respectful towards me," says a neighbor. Toward the society that took his family in he was less "respectful".
What of his family?
Ramadan Abedi, Salman's father, is 48, born in Tripoli and a "security guard" in the Gaddafi regime until he came under suspicion for his ties to "extremists". He scrammed to Saudi Arabia, but that's a tough slog for refugees, so within a year he was in London. He's been resident in Britain since he was more or less Salman's age, but his new land doesn't seem to have made much impression upon him. In Manchester, he worked as a muezzin (the fellow who gives out the Islamic call to prayer five times a day) at the Didsbury Mosque, formerly the Albert Park Methodist Chapel, in the days before Manchester traded Methodists for Muslims. As Lancashire muezzin go, he was apparently crackerjack, way better than George Formby or Morrissey would have been. But he threw it all in to go back to post-Gaddafi Libya and resume his old Islamic nom de guerre "Abu Ismail", which is the name he went under when he was soldiering in the Nineties with the LIFG.
If you don't know your jihadist acronyms, that's the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al-Qa'eda affiliate overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Lader's successor.. We're told that there's nothing British Immigration can do to scrutinize incomers, but asking whether your "Islamic Fighting Group" has given you a nom de guerre commencing with "Abu" might be a start.
Abu Ismail doesn't think we should be leaping to conclusions about his boy. "My son is a suspect," he insisted from Tripoli.. "Every father knows his son and his thoughts. My son does not have extremist thoughts," he declared, adopting the coy formulations of the British state. Pa Abedi was subsequently arrested in Libya for being, er, an extremist.
Samia Tabbal Abedi, Salman's mother, is 50, also born in Tripoli and said to be a "nuclear scientist" who "graduated top of her class from Tripoli University". I wasn't aware Colonel Gaddafi offered courses in nuclear science, but since coming to Britain Mrs Abedi has worked in less fissile areas. Farazana Kosur, who lives around the corner from the Abedis in Manchester, says Samia was a kindly lady who taught her friend's daughter to read the Koran.
What of Salman's brothers? Presumably, Abu Ismail's other sons also have nary an "extremist thought" in their heads. Nevertheless:
Ismail Abedi, 23, born in London, was arrested in Manchester on the morning after the slaughter.
Hashim Abedi, 20, born in Manchester, was arrested that same day in Libya for ties to ISIS.
Jomana Abedi, Salman's sister, is 18 and was also born in Manchester but says on Facebook that she's "from" Tripoli, although the banner on her page shows the Eiffel Tower on one of its rare non-darkened days. As the only un-arrested sibling of Salman, she posted on Facebook an Arabic prayer celebrating her brother's entry into Paradise. Under Andy Burnham rules, she's not a terrorist, so presumably she's a Muslim. She does, after all, work at a mosque. On the other hand, she's a Muslim who thinks you enter Paradise by blowing up infidel children. One recalls the mordant jest that a radical Muslim is someone who wants to kill you, and a moderate Muslim is someone who wants the radical Muslim to kill you.
But let's not be divisive. Salman had a traditional Manchester upbringing. He went to Burnage Academy for Boys, where he reported his teacher for Islamophobia on the grounds that the teacher had expressed misgivings about suicide bombing. Also at the Academy was Ahmed Halane, who subsequently headed off to the Islamic State to join the jihad. Ahmed's sisters, Salma and Zahra, attended Whalley Range High School with Jomana Abedi, but at the age of 16 the so-called "terror twins" dropped out and went to Syria to become brides of Isis.
Later Salman attended Salford University, where a classmate or two might have noticed his tendencies toward "extremist thoughts" and signed him up for the Government's "Prevent" program, which is designed to "prevent" "extremism". Alas, Salford University is committed to preventing "Prevent": Under its president Zamzam Ibrahim, the Students Union announced that it would boycott the "Prevent" program because, although it's supposed to target "extremism", Zamzam & Co have somehow got the idea that as a practical matter it targets Muslims. And targeting Muslims is, of course, divisive. So it's more important to prevent that than prevent "extremism".
Fortunately, in Manchester no one seems able to prevent anything. It's a city where one of the 22 men on George W Bush's list of the planet's "Most Wanted Terrorists" can swan hither and yon enjoying the gay social whirl, for years. That would be Abu Anas al-Liby, who was among the wide range of typical Mancunians with whom the Abedis mixed and mingled. Mr al-Liby settled in Manchester after being granted asylum by Her Brittanic Majesty in 1995 on the grounds that he had a reasonable fear of persecution if he returned to Egypt, where he was wanted for plotting to assassinate President Mubarak. While living in Manchester, Abu Anas managed to help pull off the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Africa. When MI5 belatedly raided his flat, they found the famous al-Qa'eda "Manchester Manual", instructing jihadi on how to wage war against the infidel - including, if captured, the effective technique of falsely claiming you've been tortured. Abu Anas' picture appears on Ramadan Abedi's website captioned "A Lion". in Manchester, the Lion is said to have socialized with the Abedis, perhaps at a Lyons tea shop, if there are any of those left midst the falafel emporia.
"My father was a good Muslim," says Abu Anas' son Abdullah al-Ruqai. "In Manchester, he did not encourage us to follow football, he wanted us to learn the Koran." Manchester has two footie clubs - Manchester United and Manchester City - which sounds kinda divisive. Stick to the Koran: There's only one of those.
A mile away from the Abedi home, just across Alexandra Park (named after Queen Alexandra, but in today's vibrant non-divisive England you don't need to polliute your mind with the names of filthy infidel whores like that), lived Abdalraouf Abdallah, another Libyan refugee currently serving five-and-a-half years in prison for helping Stephen Gray, RAF pilot and Muslim revert, get to Syria to sign up for Isis.
Also round the corner: Abd el-Baset Azzouz, the 48-year-old father of four and expert bombmaker who helped found the aforementioned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group for al-Qa'eda and left Manchester to run a network of 300, um, "extremists" in Cyrenaica.
When you looks at the fools he and his comrades have made of the British state, I'm surprised Salman Abedi could stop laughing long enough to self-detonate.
As the number of Muslims increase, the number of extremists increase. As the number of extremists increase, the number of terrorists increase. As the number of terrorists increase, so the word "terrorist" has to be defined down so that a beleaguered security state can refine its priorities: There's no time for your nickel'n'dime Isis recruits, brides of Isis, "Islamic Fighting Group" commanders, bomb-makers, embassy-bombing masterminds... When it's an ever more stretched net with ever more gaping holes, everyone slips through.
Salman Abedi did not become a terrorist, a murderer, an "extremist", until the final moments of his life. But it's the 22 years leading up to that last definitive act that foretell the future for Britain and for its social tranquility. All the sophisticates assure us that this isn't an immigration problem because young Mr Abedi was "British". But he lived in no England recognizable to those who came before. He was raised in a world that has already seceded from England - an England after the neutron bomb, where the unlovely sprawl of urban Manchester still stands, but where the troubled girls run off to become brides of Isis, and the good girls work at the mosque and congratulate their brothers on self-detonating their way to Paradise.
What's in it for the existing populace of the United Kingdom in either of those models? Regardless of where Salman Abedi was born, the problem he exemplifies was imported. And the very least the British should demand of their politicians is that they cease importing any more of it.
There is no plateau, no equilibrium, no stablilization, no "acceptable level of violence" here - not in a time of transformative demographic change. The longer free citizens postpone making that very modest demand, the grimmer and more "divisive" the options will get.
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