The world is mourning the loss of 22 innocent victims, many of them children, killed at what should have been an event filled with music and joy. As each victim was leaving the Manchester Arena, they didn’t have a chance. How can we make sense out of this tragedy? The victim’s family members trying to grasp the reality of what happened will have a hole in their heart for the rest of their life. Still, let’s not forget the other life lost due to this tragedy. What could possibly cause a young man to commit such a crime?
Salman Abedi lived in Manchester on Elsmore Road, which is a neighborhood that may have Islamic jihadist leanings. His father belonged to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and on the same street lived another LIFG member who offered an al-Qaeda bomb-making class for LIFG recruits. Interestingly, the UK banned LIFG years ago.
Nevertheless, it seemed to outsiders that Abedi shunned his Islamist roots during his teenage years. He was a fan of the Manchester United soccer team, drinking and smoking cannabis while he partied. Abedi’s life had the appearance of stability, even though his father was a known Kaddafi dissident. Changes would come.
With Arab Spring looming, Abedi’s father returned to Libya to revolt against Kaddafi, and took 16-year-old Salman with him to fight. Not exactly a father-son bonding experience, the radicalization of Abedi began. In addition to his father putting his life in danger, Salman came under the influence of Abdul-Basit-Ghwela, a radical imam accused of inciting violence and recruiting young men into the fold of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
When Abedi returned to the UK in 2014, he was a changed young man. After attending college for a year, he dropped out, and turned into what some would describe as a religious fanatic, praying and reading the Koran in public. Thrown out of the local Mosque for challenging the imam over a lecture, Abedi’s unresolved anger continued to spiral out of control. I addressed the issue of unresolved anger as it pertains to American society, Trump, and myself last year.
Abedi’s incensed feelings about the premature death of his good friend, 18-year-old Abdul Wahab Hafidah, who was run over and repeatedly stabbed in a 2016 daylight attack most certainly caused his extreme anger to escalate into rage, fury, and hate. But why? Probably because his father, another LIFG member down the street, and the imam in Libya radicalized him for the sole purpose of using and abusing him as a martyr for ISIS.
During a visit to Tripoli, Abedi’s parents, anxious about their son’s agitated state, confiscated his passport, but after believing his lie that he was going on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, gave it back to him. After saying, his “final goodbyes” Abedi left Tripoli and the rest is history.
The human brain doesn’t fully mature until the mid-to-late twenties, which is why the years prior to that are the most susceptible to radicalization. Consider his upbringing, add in his outrage over his friend’s death, and we might look at this young man with heartbreak. A life wasted—a child, really.
“What?”, “Are you serious?”, “How could you even think that?” I understand those questions, but I also must ask, “How could Abedi NOT have done exactly what he did?” Think about it—it would take extreme courage, superhuman strength, and unbelievable resilience to resist the amount of brainwashing Salman endured.
How do you feel about Abedi’s father who defends his son, and his sister who said he did it out of love for Islam and revenge? Are love and revenge compatible emotions? And how do you feel about Abedi himself?