The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester has claimed the suicide bomber who killed 22 was not a Muslim, insisting the “worst thing that can happen” is people blaming Muslims.
Andy Burnham, a former Labour frontbencher who was elected mayor this month, insisted the attack, claimed by Islamic State, had nothing to do with Islam.
“The message that I would want to get over – and this is how the vast majority of people feel – this man was a terrorist, not a Muslim,” he said, speaking to LBC Radio.
“He does not represent the Muslim community. We’ve got to keep that distinction in mind all the time. This was an unspeakable act. The worst thing that can happen is that people use this to blame an entire community, the Muslim community.
“In my view, the man who committed this atrocity no more represents the Muslim community than the individual who murdered my friend Jo Cox represents the white, Christian community.”
Similarly, following the Westminster knife and car attack, Prime Minister Theresa May said the “Islamist” attack on Parliament was not “Islamic”.
Haras Rafiq, the CEO of the anti-extremism Quilliam Foundation, which has advised the Government, accused Mr. Burnham of “basically doing what ISIS is doing”.
He said by declaring the terrorist a non-Muslim, he had “excommunicate[ed] Salman Abedi”, which is known as takfiri in Islam and is widely practised by extremists.
Mr. Rafiq said the Manchester attack has “something to do with some interpretation of Islam”, speaking on Sky News, adding:
“What we must not do anymore… is turn around and say ‘this person was not a Muslim’ – because he was, he was practising a form of Islamist, Salafi, jihadist Islam and that’s something we need to tackle head on.”
He also said “there is no such thing as a lone wolf”, predicting the terrorist was part of a “network”. He claimed “every single jihadist terrorist has been part of the globally inspired Islamist ideology”.