We have failed the victims of 7/7


I don’t know how long before Allison Pearson joins the exodus from the Telegraph to Breitbart. I hope her amusing family orientated pieces give her enough protection to allow her to keep writing this sort of straight talking piece in the main current affairs pages.

I can remember exactly where I was ten years ago today. Due to give a speech in the City of London, I was up early, but the radio had reports of a suspected power surge on the Underground so I emailed to the organiser saying I was worried I might run into travel problems. We agreed to keep an eye on the TV news.

I had no idea that Shehzad Tanweer, a young Muslim almost the same age as Emma (a family friend) was then, had detonated a bomb that had blown apart the carriage directly in front of the one in which Emma was travelling with her mother, on her way to start work experience.

I had no idea that members of the emergency services stood at the top of the escalator and were not allowed to go down and rescue stricken passengers in case there was a second bomb. (The Blitz Spirit had been cancelled in some quarters on 7/7 due to Health and Safety legislation. That dreadful day, it was often civilians and off-duty emergency personnel who did what came naturally, binding the wounds and comforting the dying.) 

It was mid-afternoon when I heard a message on the house answerphone: Emma reassuring us that she was OK. Well, about as OK as you can be when you’ve made your way along a Tube track, stepping on and over bits of your fellow human beings. . .  But on July 7, 2005, OK was the best you could hope for. OK was wonderful. There were 52 families who would have given everything they had for OK.

Four Muslim men who had all the advantages of growing up in our country hated our way of life so much that they murdered Jenny, Laura and all the other daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. It was, it still is, intolerable.

Equally dismaying is the fact that, ten years on, the threat, as the Prime Minister admitted yesterday, continues to be real and deadly. Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism squad says it has foiled up to 50 plots since 7/7. In the intervening decade, there have been more than 2,000 terrorism-related arrests. As we observed the silence for the dead of 7/7, arrests were at a record high, with almost one detention every single day. 

Against that horrifying background, consider the complaint this week in the Guardian by the writer and editor, Mehdi Hasan. He says that since 7/7, British Muslims have met with discrimination – “subject to unprecedented scrutiny; tagged as a suspect community, the enemy within, a ‘fifth column’ (to quote Nigel Farage)”.

Well, yes. If substantial numbers of men from a certain group in society are presenting an unprecedented threat to a country, then scrutiny and suspicion do tend to be the result. As for discrimination, try lying on a beach in Tunisia and being shot dead for no reason other than not being Muslim. 

I’m not sure that Hasan and commentators like him fully grasp the widespread dismay at the failure of many Muslims to accept the values of our society, equality for women being foremost among them.

they keep on coming, these awful stories. A huge rise in sharia marriages is reported, many of them polygamous, all taking place in a parallel world within our liberal western one. What hope is there of Muslim children integrating into the wider culture, and coming to regard it proudly as their own?

You know, I really don’t want to live in a country which needs something called a “forced marriage” course. Neither did Emma. She’s in Australia now. On the tenth anniversary of the day Tanweer nearly killed her, she went to a liberal mosque to talk about her experiences of 7/7. The imam told Emma what an important symbol her visit was. One Muslim friend who was present said: “Muslims’ lack of understanding of other religions is quite scary.” Education, he said, was key. “Only education can stop the cancer spreading.” Education is a good preventative of the disease; but once you have cancer only chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery will do. Poison, burn, cut and destroy. 

Emma texted me later: “I had to spend the day remembering that not all Muslims are out to kill us.” A sad, sorrowful sentiment Muslims might like to reflect on. I know how Emma hates to be reminded of 7/7, but anyway I texted back: “Just to say how glad we are that you’re still here and how much we love you.” 

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