Ariana Grande. From her beginnings on Broadway at age 13 to her Nickelodeon fame that helped launch her now-uber successful career as a pop star, no one would ever think she would be thrust into the middle of an ages-old “religious war.” However, that is exactly what did happen. On May 22, 2017, a suicide bomber murdered 22 and maimed or injured 119 people in the rotunda of the Manchester Arena, in Manchester, England, minutes after the American pop star’s final encore song. To many, we ask “Why an Ariana Grande concert?”… “Why target innocent women and children?” Although it may seem incomprehensible, the reason is simple: Islamic extremists hate women and womanhood. And Ariana Grande’s music celebrates all of that and more. Her new album “Dangerous Woman” focuses on her own budding womanhood. She explores her own power in her femininity and her own blossoming sexuality. This, obviously, would not sit well with those who subscribe to such religious extremist views. A day after the attack, the Islamic State (also known to us Americans as ISIS), claimed responsibility for the attack.

The suicide bomber thought to be behind the attack was a 23-year-old religious zealot who had been turned in to British Anti-terrorism hotlines multiple times by friends and fellow Muslim believers. Yet, these tips were ignored and the man was able to wreak complete havoc and terror on hundreds of innocent concertgoers. Although no one can know for sure his true intentions, one can look at the ISIS playbook as to what really happened here.

ISIS is known to be an adamant enemy of the “Western world.” Through their channels of propaganda on the Internet, through Twitter accounts, and through publications such as “Dabiq,” they paint a pretty clear picture as to why they hate the West. They claim several, but can be easily summed up into two reasons. First, it is because Westerners are not Muslim and do not live godly lives according to Allah. Second, it is because foreign governments continue to meddle in their affairs, dropping bombs and attacking innocent women and children for no other reason than political gain.   These are obvious reasons that make sense to many when taking into account the perverted version of Islam in which these terrorist groups subscribe. If these were the true reasons, why target an Ariana Grande concert? If they are so worried about women and children, why target them so blatantly and with such disregard to humanity? Why not instead focus your attack on those who are committing these attacks on their lands? It is simple: they are sending a message.

Figures like Ariana Grande encapsulate everything they hate about women. And, yes, they do hate women. In the past year alone, ISIS has been recorded beating women near death for simply wearing makeup, smoking tobacco, or wearing the color red. They have executed women for refusing to wear the required black veil or burqa, they have raped girls as young as eight years old for their own pleasure. If they are truly so worried about women and children, why are there so many stories of women and girls being denied access to medical care? Being denied basic education? Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai survived as assassination attempt by the Taliban in her pursuit for education for females in the regions dominated by these terrorist organizations. ISIS may claim their intentions are righteous and just- but their actions tell otherwise. These men claiming to act on behalf of their religion are nothing more than power hungry cowards using religion as a tool of radicalization and influence.  They are aimed at complete domination over women and will stop at nothing to see this mission to the end.

What these men fail to realize is that humanity as a whole, is good. And whatever terror is present in the moment will transform into something greater and much more significant. It happened after September 11th in America, and it will happen in this scenario as well. Ariana Grande, through no fault or desire of her own, has now become a symbol of perseverance and love to the rest of the world (and to ISIS themselves.) Earlier today, the pop star penned a letter to her fans and followers on her Twitter account. She stated, “We will never be able to understand why events like this take place because it is not in our natures, which is why we shouldn’t recoil. We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win…. Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.” She ended the note vowing to “think of them [victims of the attack] with everything I do for the rest of my life.”

I urge anyone reading this to make one clear distinction in their minds: Islam is NOT Islamism. Islamism is the extremist views on the religion that have been perverted in different ways, for different endgames. Islam is not the enemy here- hyper-patriarchal terrorists are.

About Shawn