by Jean Calder

Twenty two people died in Manchester and 120 were injured when suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at an Arianna Grande concert packed with children and young people. Given that the former teenage actor is an idol of young teenage girls, it is likely that the bomber understood very well that most of the victims would be very young and female.

It may be that, as some commentators have said, that the bomber simply didn’t care that the victims were children, but went for soft targets at an event with little security. Or that he deliberately aimed to attack children, knowing the distress and terror this would create. Few have acknowledged the probability that this was a deliberate attack on girls.

Journalists and politicians who had no difficulty describing the 2016 Orlando attack as an assault on LGBT people, struggle to identify the Manchester bombing as a targeted hate crime, aimed not at ‘children’ but at girls. Yet this attack is entirely consistent with previous evidence of targeted attack against females. In 2004, young islamists were recorded by British police while discussing a possible attack on a London nightclub. The men commented that no one could “turn round and say ‘Oh, they were innocent’, those slags dancing around”. The journalist James Harkin has pointed out that In 2007, a car bomb outside Tiger Tiger nightclub in London’s Piccadilly “seems to have been designed to coincide with a ‘ladies’ night’ at the venue, in which the perpetrators might have hoped to kill and maim scantily clad young women drinking alcohol.”

ISIS, the extremist Islamist organisation that has claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack, has many similarities to other Jihadi groups such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra (now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and Boko Haram. Their adherents are islamist Sunni Muslims, influenced by Salafism, a sectarian system of thought rooted in Saudi Wahhabism. Funded by the Saudi government this ideology is now deeply embedded in British mosques and has taken root in universities, museums, libraries and schools. At its heart is the forced subordination of women and girls.

The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, like Boko Haram in Nigeria, regularly attack girls, often in their schools, subjecting them to fire bombs, rape, kidnap and murder. The most famous victim of this sort of attack was Malala Yousafzai, who was shot on a school bus in Pakistan because she campaigned for girls’ education.

Malala rejected the highly confined role conservative sharia law permits to women and in so doing asserted her right to freedom and self-determination. She was supported in her free choice by her loving parents – as were the teenage girls attending the Arianna Grande concert – but to Salafist jihadis this would make no difference.

While young men like Abedi treat the women of their own Muslim communities with contempt, they reserve their deepest loathing for rebellious women and those in particular who are ‘apostate’ or non-muslim. They view them, as the journalist Sarah Vine puts it, as “barely human, the lowest of the low, for whom no punishment or suffering can ever be enough.” She says “We see this in the treatment of young Nigerian schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram and sold into sexual slavery; we see this in the mass rape of Yazidi women by Islamic State guerrillas; we’ve even seen it in our own country, in the systematic sexual abuse of young girls in Rochdale by so-called ‘moderate’ Muslim men who wrap their own daughters in the hijab, while simultaneously defiling other parents’ children”.

Politicians have for decades sacrificed young Muslim girls on the altar of multiculturalism, allowing powerful community leaders and domestic tyrants to deny girls equal rights to inheritance, freedom and even control of their own fertility. They have allowed generations of boys to grow up believing that they have a right to control female lives and domestic labour – whether this takes the form of untrammelled sexual access to obedient wives and control of their children or the sexual abuse of White girls from Rochdale, Christian schoolgirls from Nigeria or Yazidis from Sinjar.

A young unveiled Muslim woman on Question Time (25th May 2017) spoke out against Wahhabism in British mosques, calling for Saudi funding to be stopped. This brave young woman was supported by panelist Nazir Afzal, the former Crown Prosecutor of the North East of England who had a key role in ensuring that the organised abuse of white working class girls by groups of Pakistani-origin men, was eventually prosecuted.

These brave Muslims, like the Amadiyha Muslim women who stood on Westminster Bridge in protest against the murderous violence of Khalid Masood, deserve our respect, support and gratitude.