In Manchester, a show of determination, anger, fear and love | In Depth | DW | 26.05.2017
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In Depth

In Manchester, a show of determination, anger, fear and love

With armed police on patrol and ongoing raids in the hunt for a bomb maker, Lars Bevanger reports on the mood in Manchester as people there adjust to a new reality days after the attack that killed 22 people.

As the week was coming to an end, a semblance of normality was descending on Manchester. For once a section of the city was being closed to traffic not for police investigations, but for a major sporting event.

Friday evening would see the start of the annual Great Citygames, an international athletics competition in the city center which kick-starts a weekend of professional and amateur sports.

"The games today, I'm going to watch that," said Sam Garner, who has worked in the city center for the past year. Like many others he had come to St Anne's Square on Friday afternoon, which has turned into a sea of flowers as people keep coming to show their respect.

"I wouldn't think twice about going to something, it shows that we are stronger. I'm running in a 10-kilometer race on Sunday. We can't show them [the terrorists] that we're weak."

Sam Garner

Sam Garner came out to show Manchester is strong

Police and security services decided earlier that big events and concerts would go ahead, even as the hunt carried on for a possible bomb factory and more people believed to be linked to a network behind Monday's suicide attack.

Read more: Manchester's music scene after the terror attack

Anger at lost clues

While the police and security services have received much praise for their work to rapidly identify the bomber and make arrests linked to him, there is also anger here about what some see as missed opportunities.

"The kids and the families and people of Manchester and the country were failed by the government and the intelligence [services]," said Lucy, who did not want to give her last name.


Lucy expressed anger that the authorities failed to prevent the attack

"They were aware of him [the attacker], but it wasn't stopped. Why, why wasn't it preventable? I just don't understand. I'm angry about it. Obviously it's a minority and not a majority, but now it's time to stop being so worried about offending anybody.

"What's it going to take for it to stop? For me, kids dying, that's the line. It shouldn't happen anywhere, in any country, regardless of religion or color," she said.

Little anti-Islam backlash

Apart from some isolated incidents of physical attacks on mosques and verbal attacks on Muslims, a feared anti-Muslim backlash has not materialized.

Some feared the fact that the so-called Islamic State took responsibility for the terror attack carried out by a man purporting to be Muslim would stir trouble from far-right groups and others.

Read more: Will Manchester change after the attack

Yet in some communities there is still a fear that this could happen.

Farhmida Bibi lives in Oldham, a town in the northern part of Greater Manchester with a large Muslim population. She told DW she had been worried about going into the city center when a friend asked her to come.

Farhima Bibi

Bibi was relieved by the reception she got when she visited central Manchester

"My first response was no, I'm not coming down today because anyone could come around the corner and pull my scarf, or say something to me. I was afraid they were going to hold me responsible.

"But I've come here, and I'm actually in tears, everybody's so good, they're all hugging me," Bibi said.

Read more: Manchester: An open-minded city

While the atmosphere in Manchester is still very much one of unity and defiance, Farhmida Bibi's fears are not totally unfounded.

Burned mosque

This country has seen small but vocal and at times violent anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant forces, like the British National Party and the English Defence League, gain ground in places where immigrants have been blamed for everything from a lack of jobs to crime.

Today both the BNP and the EDF are very marginalized groups. Yet there is still hate out there; just hours after Monday's attack, the door of a mosque in Oldham was set alight.

As national politicians on Friday returned to campaigning for June's general elections, they were careful to point out that the terror threat was a threat to everyone in Britain, regardless of faith or ethnicity.

Qairsa Shahraz (middle, in blue) and the Faith Network for Manchester

Qairsa Shahraz (middle, in blue) and the Faith Network for Manchester

Qaisra Shahraz is the co-chair of the Faith Network for Manchester, which works across faiths to bring communities together.

She likened Monday's suicide bomber to the man who killed Member of Parliament Jo Cox in the week before the Brexit referendum last year - a far-right, white self-proclaimed Christian.

"This was a criminal, this was a terrorist. Why do I have to defend myself, why is it we are being targeted? We will not accept hatred," she said.

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