They’re funny folk in Manchester. This week they staged an anti-terrorism practice in a shopping centre – a pointless exercise if ever there was one. Afterwards Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan from Greater Manchester Police said:
“The scenario for this exercise is based on a suicide attack by an extremist Daesh-style organisation.However, on reflection we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use the religious phrase Allahu Akbar immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise with Islam. We recognise and apologise for the offence that this has caused.”
And there was I thinking that quite a bit of the terrorism perpetrated in Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Yemen, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia – to mention just a selection of preferred venues – is by Muslims.
Furthermore, I seem to remember that Allahu Akbar is the terrorists’ preferred manner of address while they are killing us.
But in the light of ACC Garry’s grovelling apology, I realise I must amend my thinking.
If I’ve only ever seen white swans, this doesn’t mean there are no black ones. And even if all the terrorist attacks I’ve seen reported involve the shout Allahu Akbar from the attacking Muslims, this does not entitle me to associate that particular war cry with Islam.
Next time a night club is attacked or a shopping centre bombed, I should bear in mind that the murderers might be Methodists. In which case, they might very well accompany their murderings with the blood-curdling cry, “The Women’s Bright Hour will meet on Wednesday afternoon.”
Or a terror attack might at any moment come from members of Sussex County Cricket Second Eleven with the shout of “Howzat?”
Or, if the terrorists were from Yorkshire Cricket, there would certainly be the more formal injunction, “Bang it in – yon bugger dunt like the short stuff!”
Or fans of the much-missed Ronnie Corbett screaming as they wield their machetes, “And it’s goodnight from me!”
But no – Garry is quite right to apologise to Muslims. Associating an attack with Islam could well damage community relations.
And perhaps damage them even more severely than any terrorist attack