One year ago today, the brutal terror attack at Manchester Arena, killing twenty-two and injuring over 800 innocent men, women and children, shook the very heart of this city and the country as a whole.
I would like to express my deepest sympathy and pay my respects to all the families affected by this tragic loss at this difficult time of remembrance and sorrow.
This attack – just as with all terrorist attacks across the nation – was nothing but a cowardly attack on British society and the British public.
Britain is a proud multicultural, multifaith nation and we will not be swayed by hate, nor will we allow ourselves to become divided. Following the attack last year, it was heart-warming to see communities rally together. Mancunians young and old – of all faiths and none – united in solidarity to say no to hate and yes to love.
Mosques across the city opened their doors to embrace friends and neighbours. The We Love Manchester fund raised money to support the victims’ families and Mancunians of all backgrounds gathered in St. Anne’s Square to remember the victims, survivors and their families. Their shared grief and resilience a message from our great city to the rest of the world: hatred will not feed more hatred. Not in this city.
The attackers do not speak for Islam and never will. Islam teaches Muslims to respect the sanctity of all human life and there is no place for acts of terrorism within its teachings - and never will be. In the Qur’an itself, we are told: “Whosoever saves a life, it is as if he had saved the whole of mankind” (5:32).
It is imperative that we continue to stand united and challenge all forms of hatred and division. During my election campaign as Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, I promised to put Manchester first and that’s exactly what I am striving to achieve. As shadow immigration minister and also a founding member of Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism, I have long been committed to uniting communities and standing up against hatred. A year on, this mission is just as important as ever. Mosques across Manchester, including my own Khizra Masjid, continue to open their doors to the wider community to act as centres for interfaith dialogue and cross-community learning. Only through education, openness and a willingness to learn from one another can we break down barriers and misconceptions about our differences. At this sensitive time, I would particularly like to highlight how we should not be led by fear but instead stand united as a community, in celebration of our religious, cultural and ethnic diversity.
In Manchester and across the country, the Muslim community has recently welcomed the month of Ramadan – a period of fasting, prayer, increased charity and self-reflection. The month of Ramadan calls upon Muslims to reflect and embody the values of their faith – generosity, patience, self-discipline and self-sacrifice out of love for Allah – not hatred. Allah is the Arabic word for God – the same God across all three of the Abrahamic faiths.
It was hatred that we witnessed at Manchester Arena a year ago but love which saw communities rally together and it is love which continues to permeate across Manchester and Great Britain today.
Therefore, to Mancunians and non-Mancunians alike, as we mark the first anniversary of the Arena attack, I would like to once again express my heartfelt condolences and stress that we should not fear faith, but instead deny hatred, deny division and stand united as one.
Afzal Khan is the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and Shadow Immigration Minister