Rising above terror to make a better world for us all

15 July 2005
A friend and former colleague who was travelling on the Piccadilly line on 7 July is now in a London hospital after surviving the bomb explosion in the carriage he was in that horrible morning. He survived but he has lost a leg and faces the long challenge of rehabilitation and a lifetime coping with a disability while supporting his wife and child.

He was one of more than 1,000 people injured in the attacks which, as I found when I returned to the British capital three days later, knocked out a large part of the London underground system. As I was dining out in north London on the evening I arrived, police interrupted my meal, evacuated the restaurant and closed the surrounding area following a bomb alert.

It is just over a year since Michael Hamilton, a longstanding friend of MEED, was murdered in the Al-Khobar massacre in Saudi Arabia, and Frank Gardner, a journalist I knew well when he was based in Dubai as BBC Radio's Middle East correspondent, was shot and disabled in a shooting in Riyadh.

Indiscriminate acts of political violence are for me and millions of others living in the West more than just newspaper headlines or television footage from Gaza and Iraq. They have come home and hit hard.

The attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 precipitated a revolution in American policy. Driven by an electorate fearful of further acts of terror and demanding revenge, the US government massively increased spending on homeland security and invaded and occupied two countries.


The British response will be tempered by the fact that the attacks seem to have been the work of people living permanently in the UK. They may well be British passport holders. The UK also does not have the resources at the disposal of the US.

Nevertheless, there will be a reaction. A plan to introduce identity cards is now likely to get an easier passage through the Houses of Parliament. Internal security, which visitors often find surprisingly relaxed, will be tightened. Illegal immigrants, estimated to number up to 600,000, may be targeted. And there will be further restrictions on immigration and the asylum process. Britain will be a safer but less liberal place after 7/7.

The broader political response is as yet unclear. If it is confirmed that the attacks are the work of an Al-Qaeda-style group, there could be repercussions for the millions of British

Muslims, many of whom originate, or are the descendants of immigrants, from the Indian subcontinent. I hope not, but there is bound to be some polarisation.

Questions will again be asked about British policy in the Middle East, and in Iraq in

particular. Does this represent the opening of a new front against the UK by militants connected with the insurgency? The UK and the US are already unsettled by signs that security in Iraq is not improving and may be getting worse. Newspapers published on the weekend following the attack reported that London and Washington are preparing to withdraw troops from Iraq.


There are implications for the Middle East. Countries that consider themselves partners of America and Britain will feel a new sense of vulnerability. As the attack in Doha in March highlighted, nowhere is safe against a determined or deranged attacker. The summer months will provide the authorities across the region the opportunity to ensure all citizens and residents will be as safe as possible.

American policy is the key factor. The London attacks are being used in Washington as evidence that the war against terror is justified. Pro-Israeli groups are once more on the offensive. Friends of the Palestinians have, yet again, to demonstrate that they know the difference between terror and the right to self-defence.

The hope is that the London attacks and the deaths th

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