As the ten year anniversary of the London bombings approaches, many people will be reflecting on the worst peacetime atrocity to hit the capital in its history.
Just as the eyes of the world were on London that day in the summer of 2005, so again the world will look towards the capital again next Tuesday.
On that day, four men changed the history of the city forever. Suicide bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, and Germaine Lindsay, 19, left Leeds, West Yorkshire, around 04.00am in a rented car and drove to Luton where they met their fourth accomplice, 18-year-old Hasib Hussain.
They then took a train together to King’s Cross in central London, before separating out onto the Underground system around 08.38am – 08.48am to carry out the attacks. Three bombs were detonated just before 08.50am at the following Tube stations; Aldgate, killing seven people, Edgware Road, killing six people and Russell Square, killing 26 people. The fourth bomber, Hasib Hussain, detonated his deadly explosive at around 09.47am on board a number 30 bus at Tavistock Square, killing 13 people.
To mark the passing of a decade since that fateful day, there will be memorial events not just in London, but across the country. Survivors of the 7/7 bombings and relatives of those who died will join the Prime Minister, David Cameron, London Mayor, Boris Johnson, the Duke of York and members of the emergency services at memorial events.
A minute’s silence will take place across the country at 11:30am BST during a service at St Paul’s Cathedral and will be observed across the capital’s public transport network. Families will lay flowers. Many will ponder and reflect. Some will return to the scenes of the bombings, while others will want to forget.
The recent terror attack in Tunisia will no doubt be on the minds of many.
The devastating effects of the 7/7 bombings still remain in the memories of the families and relatives of the 52 victims and four bombers and the almost 800 people injured. Whilst some are still searching for answers, others are trying to spread peace and fight extremism.
This weekend a group of young people from different faiths, along with Imam Qari Asim from Makkah Masjid in Leeds and others, plan to travel from Leeds to London retracing the steps of the bombers. The Leeds Peace Ambassadors “peace journey” will begin by laying flowers at Kings Cross and culminate in a visit to North Western Reform Synagogue near Golders Green, London where they will meet groups of other young people. The Peace Ambassadors hope to inspire unity among different faiths.
Mr Asim said: ” The 7/7 attacks on British soil have, arguably, changed the way communities live and interact with each other. 10 years on, I am proud to say that we as a society reacted extremely solemnly and graciously. We did not fall apart or tear each other apart. Instead, the terrible attacks brought people together. This was an attack on Britain, and the victims were all of us – young and old, black and white, different faiths and none. People living in the neighbourhoods of Beeston or Hyde Park, who may not had spoken to each other before, came out of their homes in the aftermath of 7/7 to offer support and comfort to each other; no gesture of compassion or act of selflessness – from offering cups of tea to beds to each other – was too small. It was a real demonstration of humanity at best. People of Leeds discovered a new resilient humanity. Those are some of the images that are engraved in my mind and strengthen my belief in humanity.”
Whilst Muslim and non-Muslim communities remain united and try to make sense of the tragedy, many Muslims feel there is also another key element to all this.
A critical aspect of the days, weeks, months and years that have followed has been the intense political and media spotlight on Muslims and Islam. Muslim communities feel that the narrative of the War on Terror which began with 9/11 has been spreading its tentacles around the world ever since with Muslims everywhere feeling the reverberations of it.
It has seen changes in policy and legislation which mean that monitoring for signs of “extremism” or “radicalisation” begins in the nurseries and then permeates through school and university life, places of employment, GPs surgeries and even into the private thought spaces and everyday activities of Muslims, such as which shops they choose to shop in or not. The narrative has now moved on from countering terrorism to “non-violent extremism” with Muslim communities feeling they are at the brunt end of it.
When Muslims appear on news programmes to be interviewed about a topic, they say it is now par for the course to be asked to condemn something or someone; the default position being that unless they explicitly condemn, they must be condoning. And of course this, they say, is then viewed as the default position of the entire Muslim community.
Whilst the perpetrators of these attacks were Muslim, it is naive to think that Islam was the catalyst behind the attacks. Nowhere in the Quran does it condone the killing of innocent people. The sanctity of human life is held in such high regard that the Quran states “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely”. The very words of God command not to kill unjustly. Therefore, if the bombers had been acting in accordance with the Quran, they would not have taken 52 innocent lives, which included Muslims killed in the blasts.
British Muslims will be observing the minute’s silence for the victims of the senseless and tragic London bombings and having their own reflections. However, they also feel it is important that the world does not remain silent about the Muslim victims of terror acts around the world. Ultimately, it is our common humanity and shared values which must prevail in the battle to win hearts and minds on all sides.