7th July 2005. I was at work when I heard the news. A “power surge” on a Tube train is not implausible, but my heart sank when I heard about the explosion on the bus because you don’t get power surges on those. One of the people on it was Giles Hart. I didn’t know him personally but he also worked for BT. He was also a Humanist, and chairman and treasurer of the Polish Solidarity Campaign during the 80s. A couple of weeks later I was travelling in to work when I noticed a whole block of Hyde Park (Leeds version) had been cordoned off and a police helicopter was overhead. This turned out to be part of the investigation and they were searching the flat where the bombs were made. It was only a couple of miles from where I lived at the time so there’s a real possibility I could have gone past the place or even seen the bombers on the street.
There’s always been an undercurrent of people wanting to spread fear and hatred of other cultures. I noticed it with posters around campus for one of Anjem Choudary’s groups when I went to university in 1997, as well as with whatever AQI, ISIL, ISIS or IS are calling themselves these days. However I’ve also noticed it with groups like the BNP, EDL, Britain First and some of the fringes of UKIP. What all these groups have in common is wanting to make people suspicious of each other. Some do it through a constant stream of lies and untruths posted to social media, some are more murderous, like the 7/7 bombers or David Copeland (the Soho nail bomber). I don’t agree with the argument that a particular religion is inherently violent because its holy book says that unbelievers should be put to death. Even though the book says it should be done, billions ignore it, and rightly so. Holy books also say that the murder of innocents is forbidden, that only God can judge, and people should respect each other. I’m not religious but that’s more the sort of thing that I can agree with.
What the hate groups would like is either ghettos where people stay with their own kind, or a homogenized monoculture that never actually existed and where diversity is anathema. I don’t want to live in either of these twisted versions of society. As well as Giles Hart, other people killed in the Tavistock Square bus bombing came from all walks of life. A lot of them were on that bus because the Tube was closed and the sheer range of backgrounds reflects the type of country we actually have. As far as I’m concerned the best way to deal with the extremists (on the extreme Right as well as Islamists) is to challenge their poisonous vitriol, reject the dystopia that they want to create, and to understand and respect the views of people that you might not necessarily agree with.
(also posted to Facebook)