7/7 Ten Years On – Andrew Vine: A decade later, the cancer of radicalisation still grows

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THERE will be flowers laid today at the memorial to the victims, and tears shed for them.

The site in London’s Hyde Park that commemorates the 52 people murdered in the terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005, is profoundly moving in its simplicity.

Each of the men and women is commemorated by a stainless steel column forged in Sheffield. It is a place of quiet, heartfelt remembrance of innocent people sacrificed on the altar of depraved brutality.

Some of the 700 more injured when suicide bombers – three of them from Leeds – detonated rucksacks filled with explosives aboard three Tube trains and a bus will certainly be there, to bear witness, but also to signify the refusal of us all to be cowed by terror.

On the 10th anniversary of a profoundly shocking day that announced a new, infinitely cruel brand of home-grown terrorism had emerged in Britain, the memorial will also be a focus for reflection that our country is locked in a relentless struggle against a savage and murderous ideology.

That ideology has established itself and spread like a cancer within Muslim communities where it has gone undetected or unsuspected, perverting the religion it purports to uphold.

Peaceful and law-abiding communities have been shocked and horrified at what they have unwittingly harboured, as tentacles of evil reached in to ensnare the young under the noses of those who knew them as loving and kindly children.

The shock that swept through the Muslim population of Leeds when it emerged that three of the suicide bombers – ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan, 32, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, and Hasib Hussain, 18 – were from the area has been repeated again and again.

In the past few weeks, the same horror has visited Dewsbury, when it emerged 17-year-old Talha Asmal had blown himself up in Iraq, then touched Bradford with the news that Khadija, Sugra and Zohra Dawood had gone with their nine children to join Islamic State in Syria.

If any good is to come out of this grim roll-call of slaughter and radicalisation, the greater Muslim community’s instinct towards living peacefully needs to be reasserted with greater determination.

To avoid the risk of feeling demonised by wider society, it must seek out and confront the demons that hide within it.

For perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this 10th anniversary of the first suicide attack in Britain is that despite the best efforts of the security forces to combat Islamist terrorism, the threat is worse now than in 2005.

In the year to April, 330 people were arrested on suspicion of terror offences. That is a third more than in the previous 12 months. And both significantly and disturbingly, the average age of those arrested has been falling. A fifth are under 20. Elements of the generation that live their lives via social media are being manipulated and radicalised by it, filled not with friendship but with hatred of the society into which they have been born and grown up.

These are emotionally vulnerable young people caught between two cultures and the nihilism of terror, the path to murder and self-destruction, is filling the gap.

Nobody should doubt the sophistication of the hateful material being used to twist impressionable hearts and minds. The security forces have tracked it becoming ever more slick and persuasive over the last decade.

This is much more challenging than a fight against a specific enemy – it is a struggle against an ideology, as era-defining for our age as the Cold War was 30 years ago.

There is no single mastermind or group on which to focus any more, as there was at the time of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, when Osama bin Laden and his followers could be targeted. Now the threat is more shadowy and amorphous, a multitude 
of voices cajoling, tempting and stirring up hatred.

It is impossible for the state to reach into the bedroom of every disaffected young person and peer over their shoulder at what is on the screen of their mobile phone or computer.

But the families around them, their friends and the communities in which they live have a far greater chance of detecting the images and propaganda that alarm and appall the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims who want no truck with atrocities committed in the name of their faith.

That majority – the neighbours, colleagues and friends of those of all faiths, or none – were as devastated by the events of July 7, 2005, as any other community in Britain.

The mass murderers of that day did not discriminate between who they killed or maimed. There were people of many ethnicities and faiths aboard those trains and that bus.

For all their sakes, a decade on we should resolve to redouble our efforts to triumph over this murderous ideology. And the fight must begin within the communities where it lurks, and which it seeks to corrupt.