London 7/7 bombings: We cannot opt out of this fight, hoping that if we hide terrorism will leave us alone

This is not a battle of choice - it is a battle of necessity

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The Independent Online

There are moments in life we all remember, and I will never forget where I was on 7 July 2005 when the awful news came through that a series of bombs had gone off on the London Underground and on a London bus.

I was working at the Department of Health, and when I got out of the tube at Westminster my phone was flooded with with texts and voice messages from worried friends and family asking if I was ok. Like millions of others across the city, I immediately replied, and then started ringing people myself.

52 people were killed that day and 700 injured, some of them left with disabilities which will affect them for the rest of their lives.  The country will never forget those terrible events.  The families of those killed and injured deserve our continuing support.

If the aim of the killers was to intimidate the country or change our way of life, they failed.  The country mourned the senseless loss of life, but carried on.  Neither our great capital city nor the country as a whole allowed mass murder to destroy co-existence.  We continue to enjoy a level of religious freedom that is admired around the world,  Millions still travel on the underground every day.  London is an even more diverse and outward looking city today than it was a decade ago.  Not for our capital the prospect of living in fear.  Instead it stands as a global city of all nationalities and faiths, more concerned with what you can contribute than where you came from.

The tenth anniversary of 7/7 is a moment to reflect on our fight against the ideology that drives people to kill themselves and others, including in appalling attacks like Sousse, where two of my constituents lost their lives on the beaches of Tunisia.

In foreign policy terms we have been through the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the period of reaction against intervention, most notably the Parliamentary vote on Syria two years ago.

 

We have learned – or at least we should have – that seeing Islamist extremism purely as a reaction to what we do is fundamentally mistaken. Indeed that view – Western centric as it is – belittles the threat we face.  It implies we can somehow opt out of this fight, that if we hide maybe they will leave us alone.

That view may be tempting but it is wrong. In foreign policy terms, the world is not divided into adults who act and children who react. Those who pursue the ideology of Isil are not children – they are responsible for their own actions, driven by their own ideology.

No one, no Western action, no policy that we pursue, forces anyone to kill innocent aid workers and post the film of the murder on the internet. No one forces anyone to kill innocent holiday makers on a beach in Tunisia.  No one forced anyone to kill people on the London underground. The people who do these things are responsible for what they do.

If we have learned anything in the past 10 years it should be that this is not a battle of choice - it is a battle of necessity. We cannot run away from it.  The Prime Minister has been right to term it a generational struggle.  But definition must be matched by willing the means to fight it.  That must be done ideologically, politically and with tougher means where necessary.

Our values are precious: the freedom to elect or kick out a government; the freedom to worship in different places; and the freedom that allows me as a woman to wear what I want, to choose any career that I want, and to love whom I want. These values are vital. They are part of us. And they are worth defending with everything we have.

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