Ten years ago our world changed. Home grown suicide bombers attacked London’s transport system, detonating their home-made explosives on trains and a bus. The terrorists murdered 52 people and injured hundreds more.
Images of the devastation are still fresh in our minds. Even a decade later we still struggle to process the horror. It was the deadliest single terrorist atrocity on British soil, recalling the worst of the bloody IRA terror campaign during the ‘Troubles’.
I remember my mum frantically trying to reach my dad at his London office. I remember how relieved we all were when we found out he was fine. I remember watching the news as bloodied victims staggered out of the stations and into the streets and wondering why the terrorists hated us so much.
Since that day much has changed and much has stayed the same. We are much less safe but also much less free.
Despite the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, Islamism has grown increasingly powerful throughout the Middle East and Africa. ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Taliban in Afghanistan. Boko Haram and al Shabab in Africa. The bastard children of al Qaeda seek to conquer the unbeliever, confront the West, and impose a draconian form of sharia law on anyone unlucky enough to live under their rule.
But our most terrible enemies do not live in Syria or Somalia. They live among us. We used to fear attack by foreign terrorist organisations. Now the threat comes from within our own society. The 7/7 terrorists grew up in West Yorkshire. The killers of Lee Rigby hailed from East London.
In the last few years, a tide of eager young men and women have packed their bags and run off to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Some of the young men make headlines by becoming fighters and suicide bombers. The young women have a bright future ahead of them as sex slaves or imprisoned wives.
Hopefully they will all get themselves killed but I suspect that is wishful thinking on my part. Undoubtedly a number of combat-trained extremists have already returned to their homes in the West.
As the terror threat gathers pace so does the assault on our freedoms. Ever since the ‘War on Terror’ began, British governments have sought ever-greater powers to root out the extremists in our midst.
The Orwellian virus of state surveillance has expanded exponentially. Hundreds of public bodies can listen to our telephone calls and read our emails. They can film us in secret and spy on us. Legislation designed to combat crime and terrorism has been used to hound families for being in the wrong catchment area and to investigate dog fouling.
Counter-extremism laws have criminalised various forms of ‘hatred’. Apparently this includes publicly repeating a particularly juicy Churchill quote about Islam, but does not include flying the black flag of ISIS (who have, let’s not forget, committed genocide against Christians and Yazidis, thrown homosexuals off buildings, burned enemy combatants alive and routinely treat women like cattle) in Parliament Square.
Meanwhile, successive governments and the BBC have cosied up to self-appointed representatives of the ‘Muslim community’ whose views are quite often indistinguishable from the young fanatics making the trip to Syria.
The left work themselves into paroxysms of self righteous indignation about the ‘Islamophobia’ that is apparently rife in our horrid, racist, not very nice society, despite the fact that anti-Muslim crime in Britain actually seems to be falling and is frequently exaggerated.
Rather than confront the truth – that there is an enemy among us who would very much like to kill or convert us all – leftists prefer to engage in hand-wringing, blaming Western foreign policy or racism for the crimes of Islamists. Most sane people were outraged when the unwashed lefty hipster prophet Russell Brand blamed the West for the recent Tunisian atrocity. Yet we have all met people who think as he does.
It has become fashionable, whenever Islamic extremists commit a crime, to claim they have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. This is wrong-headed and actively harmful. The 7/7 terrorists were Muslims. Islamic State (ISIS) are both Islamic and a State. Their desire to re-establish the ancient Caliphate is a dearly held one amongst many Muslims. To deny this is to deny reality.
This does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathisers. Far from it. Most are horrified by what has been done in their name. But a significant minority are not. Over a quarter of British Muslims polled by the BBC in the aftermath of the Paris attacks earlier this year sympathised with the motives of the gunmen.
To deny the nature of the threat we face is to bury our heads in the sand and invite British Muslims to do the same.
We have become afraid of expressing our own values and beliefs, for fear of stepping on the toes of some ‘oppressed’ minority. A symptom of this is our refusal to accept that our enemies are what they say they are.
The dominant ideology of multiculturalism, which holds that all belief systems are valid and Western values are just another belief system – and a racist one to boot – has clearly failed. Now, as ten years ago, we have a choice. We can either stand proudly for something or fall believing that ‘anything goes’.
Politicians and commentators often talk about ‘British values’ without really defining what they mean. Well, the barons at Runnymede and the rebels of the Long Parliament certainly knew what they were fighting for.
Britain gave the world the concept of liberty. Freedom of speech, conscience and expression. Equality before the law and trial by jury. We’ve run away from those concepts in recent years but we certainly haven’t found anything better.
If we give up our birthright to buy a little security, then the terrorists – for whom freedom is a rebellion against the divine will of Allah – will be victorious. In the name of preserving freedom, we dismantle it a piece at a time.
The best thing we can do to remember the dead of 7/7 is to honour their memory. The best thing we can do to fight against militant Islam is to stand up for freedom.