Anne Summers: Manchester bombing was revenge agst women & girls expressing their freedom Print E-mail
Saturday May 27 2017

Manchester bombing was a hate crime against women and girls

By  Anne Summers

It's grim to have to say this but the facts seem inexorably to lead to the conclusion that the Manchester bombing was a hate crime against women. Especially against women and girls who want to assert their independence and their freedom, who will submit to no one and who want to shape their own lives.

Such women are antithetical to everything ISIS represents and are too subversive of its insane medieval views of women's roles to be tolerated by this terrorist organisation.

Ariana Grande, the 23-year-old American pop diva, epitomises this subversion, which seems to be why it was her concert and (mostly young female) fans that were targeted, rather than, say, another mass event such as the FA Cup final due to be played on Sunday.

The Manchester concert was part of Grande's Dangerous Woman world tour that is promoting her latest album, also called Dangerous Woman. It is an anthem of female empowerment, albeit one that celebrates sexual empowerment rather than economic or political freedom, and hence is highly provocative. Especially when you know its history.

 Members of the public at a vigil for the victims of the terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The victims were primarily girls and women. (Getty Images)

The album was originally going to be called Moonlight but, just before its release in February last year, Grande announced a name change. The new name, she revealed in a post to her 106 million followers on Instagram, came from the Egyptian feminist writer and physician Dr Nawal El Saadaw's 1975 novel, Woman at Point Zero:

"They said, 'You are a savage and dangerous woman.' I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous." – Nawal El-Saadawi

It was a bold move for Grande, formerly seen more as a bubble-gum sort of singer, to link herself to a book based on El Saadawi's imprisonment by the Sadat regime in Egypt for her political activities and to a woman who has spent her life fighting the oppression of Arab women. El Saadawi has opposed the veil, female genital mutilation and has been an outspoken opponent of Islamism.

"To me, a dangerous woman is someone who's not afraid to take a stand, be herself and to be honest," Grande told Billboard magazine in March 2016 about her decision to change the album's name.

 Female solidarity: A woman lights candles after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester. (AP)

Whether the Manchester attack was masterminded by ISIS or was the act of a "self-appointed witch-finder, to quote James Harkin of London's Centre for Investigative Journalism who is an expert on the Islamic State, the tragic outcome nevertheless stemmed from an ideology that is anti-West, especially its music, and against the freedoms enjoyed by women.

Islamic State noted, in its statement on Manchester, that it had taken place in a "shameless concert area".

"To them," Harkin wrote, "the empowered sexuality of a singer like Ariana Grande appears to have been a dangerous, godless combination."

Attacks on women and girls have been a hideous hallmark of radical Islamism, from the kidnapping of more than 2000 young women since 2014 in Nigeria by Boko Haram to the continual shooting of girls in schools by the Taliban in Pakistan.

These attacks are intended to stop girls acquiring the tools, such as education, that would enable them to have economic power and thus choices about their lives.

Instead, the model is one of female subservience and virtual imprisonment where women in the ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq are not permitted to leave their homes unless veiled and chaperoned. Or women deemed to be infidels are forced into sexual servitude to the returning fighters. As many as 3000 Yazidi women are reported to have been sexually enslaved by ISIS and women are bought and sold online and in an open bazaar in Raqqa, Syria, according to the United Nations.

At the same time, there is a large and apparently increasing number of women among the so-called Foreign Fighters who have travelled from Western countries, including Australia, to join ISIS. It has been reported that many of these women are trained to return to their home countries to instigate terrorist attacks.

But the targets of most attacks, regardless of the gender of the perpetrators, have to date appeared to have been chosen indiscriminately – unless we include the mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando Florida last June by a man who described himself as having pledged allegiance to ISIS.

If Manchester is indeed an example of specifically targeting women, this is a frightening development, designed to strike at the heart of the concept of women's equality that we like to think is central to our system of values.

The very existence of ISIS is a perversion of those values and the notion that it, or any of its disciples, would punish a young woman such as Ariana Grande and her fans for being "dangerous women", is totally intolerable. And should be called as such.

Twitter: @SummersAnne