Concert attack prompts culture and values row

Heartbroken: Last night Ariana Grande suspended her “Dangerous Woman” tour. © Getty

Monday’s atrocity in Manchester was an attack on music and female empowerment — things the West holds dear. Yesterday some said it should do more to defend its way of life. Are they right?

She wears revealing outfits, stockings and bunny ears. She has 106m followers on Instagram and over 46m on Twitter. She is a pop star adored by teenage girls around the world.

Ariana Grande is a liberated 23-year-old woman. She represents many of the things Islamist terrorists hate. And on Monday night that became brutally clear.

A man detonated a bomb at her concert in Manchester. Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for killing 22 people at a “shameless concert arena”.

Yesterday many said the attack was an assault on a way of life and a culture. In the Daily Mail, James Harkin wrote that Islamic State’s war was “not so much with our governments as with the values we all live by”.

In The Telegraph, war studies professor Andrew Roberts argued that Western countries had helped to make the Islamists’ narrative seem legitimate because they were too apologetic about their own culture, history and heritage.

“We must say to the terrorists, unequivocally, that we are better than them,” he wrote. He advocated aggressive action to weaken groups which promote Islamist ideology and counter conspiracy theories in some Muslim communities.

In recent years some European leaders have tried to encourage social integration through assertive policies. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and David Cameron, the former British prime minister, are among those to call on people to adopt Western values.

Last year Merkel’s government passed a law docking welfare payments from immigrants who did not learn German. And in 2006 Gordon Brown, then the prime minister, suggested the UK should hold an annual “Britain Day”.

But some have argued for a more relaxed approach. In 2015 Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, suggested integration was unnecessary. “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,” he said.

And yesterday John Bradley, an author specialising in the Middle East, wrote that Westerners should “build relationships with increasingly ghettoised and suspicious Muslim communities”.


The West must be assertive, say some. Terrorist attacks should remind us of the superiority of Western values and a Western, liberal way of life. Celebrating a common culture brings people together and makes newcomers feel proud of the society they have joined. And non-judgemental governments simply end up tolerating intolerance.

That will not work, others respond. Western values are very difficult to define; asking immigrants to adopt them is often hypocritical. We should not mind how others live. Governments do not change attitudes with desperate gimmicks. And the link between weakening British identity and Islamism is dubious. The West should try another approach.

You Decide

  1. Do you feel proud of the country you live in?
  2. Should Western governments assert their own culture and values?


  1. Work in pairs. Spend two minutes listing words and phrases which describe the way people live in your country. Choose the best five and discuss: would you want them to apply to everyone?
  2. Think of three things a government could do to make people fit in to your country. Prepare a short talk to your class explaining whether each would be a good idea and why.

Some People Say...

“There is no such thing as a superior set of values.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The attacker, Salman Abedi, was a British 22-year-old. He was born in Manchester to Libyan parents. He attended Burnage Academy for Boys and Manchester College. He also went to Salford University before dropping out. His family moved from London to Manchester, which has a large Libyan community, before he was born.
What do we not know?
How and when he became sympathetic to Islamic State. Yesterday one Muslim community worker told the BBC that members of the public had warned about his views several years ago. Two people he knew at college called the police to say he was supporting terrorism. Some also said he was in Manchester earlier this year, where he told people of the value of dying for a cause. One imam at his local mosque said his involvement was “not a surprise”.

Word Watch

Someone who believes Islam is not just a religion but a set of political principles that should be imposed on people. Some Islamist groups are non-violent; others call for jihad (holy war) against those who disagree with them.
Islamic State has attacked similar venues before. For example on new year’s eve last year, the group bombed a nightclub in Istanbul, killing 39. Its propaganda has encouraged followers to target music venues and nightclubs.
Roberts was particularly critical of the portrayal of British history in schools, the media and universities. He said a “pre-emptive cringe” over the past had “led to unnecessary self-hatred and guilt”. He also argued that too often Western intelligence officers are seen as the villains in TV dramas.
Such as the Muslim Brotherhood, whose mottos include “Islam is the solution”.
For example, about 9/11 or the 2005 bombing attacks in London.
In 2011 Cameron said “state multiculturalism”, which funded and promoted groups from different communities, had encouraged people to live segregated lives.


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