Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Remember 7/7

Today is the fifth anniversary of the horrific bombings in London which claimed the lives of 52 innocent people and injured over 700 more. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost loved ones and all those whose lives were so cruelly affected by this murderous and immoral act. 7/7 was an attack on all of us, irrespective of race or religion. As the Muslim Council of Britain note 'this was an attack on the very concept of an open pluralistic society and all those – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – who wish to be part of it. Among those killed there were four promising young Muslims who came from diverse backgrounds.'

Five years on, we are told that the risk of terrorist attacks has not gone away. But neither have we seen, as many feared we would, a wave of similar atrocities. We can continue to hope that the fears of another 7/7 never become a reality. That means it is right that we reflect on some of the lessons of the past five years, in an attempt to make our world and our country a safer and more peaceful place.

At the time, Tony Blair – and all those for whom war was the answer – denied any link between the bombings and our foreign policy. No serious commentator maintains that fiction today. As the Guardian editorial says today, “The political edict that barred any admission of the linkage between foreign policy and the terrorism threat collapsed under the weight of intelligence connecting the two”.

Despite the conclusion of the Joint Intelligence Committee that the terrorists were motivated by anger over British foreign policy, those of us who insisted on making this connection were frequently vilified for our pains.

I once commented that the 7-7 bombings were ‘reprisal’ attacks. Of course, we know that they were exactly this, because the terrorists said so. In their video statements they refer again and again to conflicts around the world: “Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible…”

Pointing to the obvious motivation of these terrorists is, as is now clear, a pretty mainstream opinion. But try saying it as a Muslim.  Immediately, the smears will start, accusing you of being ‘soft’ on terrorism, or even of justifying their crimes. An unsavoury alliance of Islamophobes, from neo-conservatives to the assorted racists and fascists of the English Defence League are still whipping themselves into a phony state of outrage about my comment that this was a ‘reprisal’. As if telling the truth about the motivation of the terrorists is to condone it!

But the point of these smear campaigns is not to get at the truth. Like the climate change deniers, these cheerleaders for war continue to deny the truth because to admit it is to admit their own culpability. The failed and discredited ‘war on terror’ made the world a more unsafe place.

I hope and pray that we will never again witness such horror in our country. But we need to do more than hope. Wherever Islam is perverted to justify these crimes Muslims must confront such distortions. In the wake of the 7-7 bombings I helped organise a vigil by British Muslims to honour the victims and condemn the perpetrators, under the slogan 'Not in Our Name'. And since then, through countless public meetings I have challenged those extremists who would employ dodgy theology to exploit political grievances. I would also challenge those who continue to put our country's foreign policy at the service of American imperial adventures. As British citizens we need to strongly urge a change in course and send a clear message that their actions are 'Not in Our Name'.