In the wake of the terror attack in Manchester last week, there has been an inevitable run of stories in the national press about the reception foreign students may receive in Britain. All of us in the education profession hope and believe that their future in the UK is as bright as it has ever been.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the perpetrator of last week's horror was in no way representative of mainstream Islam. He was a sick individual whose delusions caused unspeakable horror and harm. As we proceed through the holy month of Ramadan, I cannot help remembering the hundreds, if not thousands of Moslems it has been my privilege to work with over the past four decades around the world. In all that time, I cannot recall a single individual who would react sympathetically to the actions of the Manchester suicide bomber. A sense of perspective at times like this is often hard to achieve but the effort is well worth it. Singling out one tortured soul as representing the peaceful faith of millions is not only pointless, but statistically crazy. Unfortunately, statistics often take a back seat when tragedy strikes.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, there was a spate of terrorist bombings in the UK, linked to major historical and political issues between Britain and Ireland. I lived in London at the time and regularly journeyed into the West End at weekends and during school holidays. Never once did I hear an explosion, was I required to take shelter or be advised to avoid certain streets. I remember that the British press made some sarcastic comments about Sylvester Stallone, who said he was unwilling to come to London because of the bomb threats. Rocky, or later on, Rambo, was not such a hero as he appeared on screen. The bombs and the threat of bombing helped sell newspapers and so the coverage given to them was disproportionate to the damage that they actually caused.
This is not in any way to diminish the pain and suffering of those who lost loved ones in such attacks. Similarly today, the ghastly scenes in Manchester should not be allowed to obscure the fact that there are sick people in our society whose actions are wholly reprehensible. Nonetheless, they are a tiny minority whose damage, however traumatic, affects a very small number of human beings. It may seem strange to look for good at such a time, but I was very heartened to read this article last week in the aftermath of the tragedy, in which a thoughtful commentator sought to reveal some of the positive and uplifting sides of our common humanity. I commend it to you.
As our students enter the last couple of weeks of AS and A2 examinations, I hope that none of our seniors, nor their parents, are having second thoughts about going to Manchester, or London; Cardiff or Edinburgh; Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham or Sheffield. You will be made welcome wherever you go to study and the minuscule minority of those with twisted minds and ideologies will only feel a sense of achievement if we ever let them feel that they are winning.
Many of you will know that the majority of my Facebook friends are ex-KY students. It was heartening last week to see all of those in the Manchester area logging in to assure us that they were safe. I'm sure you will also have seen the announcement put out by the government here that not one single Malaysian was a casualty of the Manchester bombing. Like everyone else, I grieve for those who lost their lives and abhor the event with all my heart. Yet the only right and proper thing is to acknowledge that fact, and move on.