2015 marks the tenth anniversary of 7/7, the London bombings. South Leeds Life has spoken to a range of local figures about those events, their aftermath and the decade since.
What really struck me about the events in July 2005 was seeing people – the community – distance themselves from one another. In many cases, neighbours who you’d perhaps had really positive communication and relationship with – people who were used to really talking, sharing life, looking out for one another – suddenly became wary of one another. People weren’t sure who was who, nor who to trust. Fear had got in.
Within the Muslim community, there was just a big sense of shock. People weren’t sure what had happened. These were decent, law-abiding people who had perhaps come and settled in this country, or many who were born and bred here, who’d contributed to society, were proud to be British and part of the culture. Then all of a sudden, fingers were being pointed, blaming them – us – for what had happened.
For me, I’ve always had a faith, but the events of 2005 really prompted me to learn more about my religion. From all I’d previously gathered from my parents and community, and from all I’ve learnt since then, it’s totally evident to me that all these events – murders and so on – are not a true reflection of Islam, nor are groups like IS representatives for me. It’s political, it’s all about power – and it divides regular people, and it weakens us.
So since 2005, I’ve tried to represent my faith in the wider community – but rather than constantly trying to speak up for Islam, I’ve instead tried to put my faith into practice. I’ve especially become committed to building and strengthening relationships in the community here – for instance, by reaching out to other faiths. We and the local church have done lots together – including hosting a Christmas meal at the mosque. Through events like that, people have been able to share, talk, learn together.
We’ve expanded our work across the city, included people from other faiths, and together worked on collective projects. We’ve worked a lot with young people, many of whom – no matter what their culture or ethnicity – don’t feel part of society. In all this work, I’m passionate about helping to bridge the gap between different people, as my way of making change.
And following 7/7, there was lots of potential to see real change happen – only I’m not sure we really achieved it. Part of the issue was the ‘Prevent’ government funding, which was solely focused on preventing extremism, which inevitably is very hidden. And it got soaked up by a small number of groups and organisations, who I don’t think have really tackled the issues. That resource could have been far better spent supporting local people to get the community working together for the good of society.
There are local people engaged in that kind of work, who are making a significant difference – and I’m trying to be one of them. I’ve learnt that I might not have an army of people behind me, nor the financial means to make significant change, nor be widely recognised – but I can help make change, by simply treating the people around me with love and care, and playing my part through good deeds.
Through engaging with one another, we can together overcome the fear and divisions in our society. In the talking, the sharing, and so on, love grows. But we don’t have enough of that, so instead we’re all increasingly shaped by the media. We need the media to be more positive, to inspire us. And we all need to engage more with one another, to learn from one another, to see the world through others’ eyes.