What kind of demented times we are living in — children are being targeted by a suicide bomber, ripped apart with nails while leaving a pop concert in Manchester, easily one of Britain's worst terror strike.
And what kind of depraved mind would hole up after the deed like a mouse in a culvert and blow himself up rather than come out with guns blazing and die in a hail of bullets?
Not that it would in any way be a logical denouement of what the bomber had set out to achieve. But at least the world would get to see the coward who has such wanton disregard for innocent lives.
The incident needs no first person account: as we read this, most of us can visualise children wailing hysterically, adults carrying toddlers in their arms, others looking desperately in the chaos for their brothers and sisters, and somewhere in a corner a child holding on to its teddy bear or balloon — a picture of flickering hope for the rest of humanity.
What outrages each one of us even more — as we count the body bags — is that in their own minds, the demented bomber possibly saw the rendezvous with death through a prism of "tragic daring, like that of a moth dancing around a flame". It is with this fatalistic romance of a nihilist that he perhaps clinically approached his cold-blooded executions!
According to Daily Mail, last night, ISIS supporters were celebrating the massacre online while two messages, posted four hours before the attack, appeared to predict the strike. Yet another online message described it as "just terror" and cajoled the believers into confronting the infidels and "killing them wherever you find them".
This cockeyed notion of "just terror" — this tryst with "shahadat" — in turn is anchored in the terrorist's flawed understanding of the Islamic doctrine of Jihad, which has been partly muddied over the centuries by the custodians of the faith, the ulema, with their self-serving interpretations.
But the jihad that the terrorists espouse is a specious exercise that exists only in their confused mind space. Here, they are not submitting to the will of Allah. Nor does loyalty lie to the nation state, Britain in this case, which has given them an identity and the opportunities to evolve, but rather to motley terror outfits and their hegemonist designs.
They see free societies as as blasphemous infringements on their violent creed, which must be crushed at all costs.
Immediately after the bombing, a message on Twitter said: "It seems that bombs of the British airforce over children of Mosul and Raqqa have just came back to Manchester."
But jihad is not about waging a spurious holy war in a mythical battleground for a perceived wrong, whether the rationale for it lies embedded in the killing fields of Afghanistan or the bombed ruins of Baghdad.
Jihad rather enjoins on the believer the duty to discover what is right and wrong in the quest for the ultimate truth. It is in this continuous quest that a believer is ready to give up his life and thus become a martyr. But the death that ensues is not necessarily in the battlefield — a notion that is a throwback to the medieval times — but in the course of his struggle to discover the will of Allah.
Unless Islamic scholars resurrect the true religion from behind fossilised doctrines, more terror puppets will continue to strike, smug in the belief that they are martyrs.