The spirit and beauty of a nation can best be determined by how it reacts in the face of tragedy, and after the horrific Manchester bombing, the response of all sections of society was both heartening and beautiful. Numerous reports and videos emerged of people sacrificing their own comfort for the sake of others in different ways: victims allowing others to be treated first, taxi drivers giving free rides, faith leaders raising funds for the sufferers, ordinary people giving blood, everyone helping lost children as though they were their own. The people of the city showed an indomitable strength through their compassion, and demonstrated to the world that tragedy would not divide or defeat them.
Over the coming weeks and months however, the challenges for Britain will only increase. We will all seek to find some sort of solution to the growing threat of terrorism, and someone to blame. Deep in our introspection, we will wonder whether it is Islam that is to blame, or refugees, or our Government, or foreign governments, or simply a barbaric individual influenced by a cruel terrorist group. We will ponder over whether the solution lies in bombing foreign countries, or heightening government surveillance, or simply continuing on as normal. Media coverage will address all of these possible options, and it is through our voices that we can decide what happens next. There are many routes that we can take as a nation following this tragedy, and some political decisions may have to be made to which there are no easy answers.
However amongst the jigsaw of options, one principle must remain in the forefront of our mind - that in our response to this crisis we must not ourselves let innocent people suffer. For example, we should not, under the guise of national security, develop a thirst to bomb other nations and kill civilians, simply to satisfy our own desire for retaliation. We must not develop the delusion that stranded refugees from war-torn countries are dangerous, and stop letting them in to our country. We must not begin to create a climate of fear within our own country that Muslims are responsible for what happened, and start committing hate crimes against them.
As a Muslim, I look to the Qur'an to provide moral guidance. Islam teaches that the killing of one innocent person is equivalent to the killing of all of mankind. Why? Because if a person justifies in his mind that killing one innocent person is right, he can equally justify killing thousands more for the same 'cause.' As demonstrated by Monday's bombing, terrorists are willing to sacrifice the lives of children because they believe their cause is worth it. We should not, even to the tiniest degree, allow a climate of fear to engulf the country such that the lives of others, either domestically or abroad, are threatened.
The world came together in solidarity after Paris was attacked, on two occasions, over the past few years. However since those attacks, the rate of hate crimes against Muslims and anti-Semitic offences have soared. The popularity of the National Front, a party which has rallied against immigration and globalisation and whose leader has been accused of hate speech on numerous occasions, has increased dramatically, to the extent that Marine Le Pen almost won the Presidency last month. The question should be posed as to whether France truly won against the forces of evil and terror, or whether, to some degree, sections of their society succumbed to them. Analysing their actions, and potential mistakes, in their response to terrorism and using this as a guide to our response, should be a priority for Britain.
True strength in a society lies not in seeking to demonise other individuals or bomb other nations, but to remain compassionate even in times of crisis. In the aftermath of the Manchester tragedy, compassion was shown in abundance, however the greatest challenge we face comes now. Our test is whether we can remain willing to help others in need, even when our country faces dangers, and whether we can remain unified and kind, even if we feel vulnerable. It is through passing these tests successfully that will make Britain truly strong.