THE 10th anniversary of the 7/7 attacks in London comes at a particularly gloomy time when we are mourning the loss of innocent British lives in Tunisia.
July 7, 2005, was an unforgettably terrible day. A plethora of emotions overcomes me as every time I recall the casualties resulting from the terrible suicide bombings in London.
I never thought that such heinous crimes would ever be committed in our country by fellow Britons against innocent civilians.
For me as a Yorkshireman and a Muslim, it was particularly sickening and painful that three young men from my dynamic city, Leeds, and belonging to my peace-loving faith, had committed these appalling crimes.
The pain of my fellow citizens, who lost their loved ones, has been my pain. Pain is subjective to the one feeling it and the last decade of my life has definitely been affected by the 7/7 attacks.
I have stood time and time again with men and women who have experienced tremendous loss as a result of this attack; their tremendous courage and determination continues to inspire me to this day.
I have also heard the experiences of young Muslims who, at times, have been singled out or profiled, or have suffered bigotry following those attacks. The pain and suffering continues in so many hearts to this day.
The 7/7 attacks on British soil have, arguably, changed the way communities live and interact with each other.
Ten years on, I am proud to say that we – as a society – reacted extremely solemnly and graciously. We did not fall apart or tear each other apart. Instead, the terrible attacks brought people together. This was an attack on Britain, and the victims were all of us – young and old, black and white, different faiths and none.
People living in the neighbourhoods of Beeston or Hyde Park, who may not had spoken to each other before, came out of their homes in the aftermath of 7/7 to offer support and comfort to each other; no gesture of compassion or act of selflessness – from offering cups of tea to beds to each other – was too small.
It was a real demonstration of humanity at its best. People of Leeds discovered a new resilient humanity. Those are some of the images that are engraved in my mind and strengthen my belief in humanity.
The 10th anniversary is first and foremost about remembering those lives lost or changed forever.
But it is also an important moment to reflect upon the last 10 years and how the threat of extremism is affecting us in Leeds and British public.
As an imam, the threat of extremism is real for me. For British Muslims the threat from these extremists is four-fold. We are part of Britain and therefore any attack on Britain, or British people abroad, is a direct attack on us.
Second, these extremists send a false message to our fellow Britons that Muslims don’t want to be part of Britain – they try to breed hatred, fear and suspicion, thereby creating division between communities.
Third, they have hijacked our faith Islam and commit terror in the name of our faith.
Fourth, these fanatics try to indoctrinate young impressionable individuals with hatred against their own countrymen and women, or lure them away to a war zone thousands of miles away. It is why British Muslims are at the forefront of the efforts to combat threat of extremism because it affects us as much as anyone else.
We should not be in denial about the problems and the challenges we still face. We know that there are still people who are driven by the politics of hatred and violence. They may now have a different name but they’re still the same evil people that wish to cause mayhem in our society and divide communities.
We have a lot more work to do if we are to defeat them – but, together, we will. Hope and optimism is the best weapon against extremism and destruction.
The decade that has followed the 7/7 attacks has been an anxious one for Britain. But none of us want fear and hate to win. Even on the horrific day of 7/7, Leeds showed a magnanimous spirit; it was clear we would refuse to let terrorist win.
Ten years on, the people of Leeds stand together with the same determination against all kinds of hatred and fanaticism. Citizens of Leeds will come together at Elland Road to pay tribute to those who died, to their families and the injured and survivors of 7/7, and send out a strong message to the terrorists – their attempts to divide us and destroy our society were neither successful then, nor they will be successful in the future. They failed then, they will fail now.
Britain has always has been a cradle of tolerance and diversity and long may it continue!
Whilst life will go on, the memories of the lives lost 10 years ago or in the dreadful attack in Tunisia 10 days ago will forever remain honoured in our hearts.
Qari Asim MBE is an imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds. He can be followed on Twitter at @QariAsim