At the time of the so called “7/7” bombings, I remember that I wasn’t surprised. Great Britain had been involved since the beginning with the military action in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Also, the Brits were a part of US-led invasion of Iraq, and I thought at the time that their involvement in these two campaigns made Great Britain a prime target for an attack by al Qaeda or some other group of foreign extremists. What I did not realize at the time, but would come to learn over the course of the next few years, is that Great Britain, especially London, had become a breeding ground for Islamic extremists, and that the “7/7” bombings had been carried out by home-grown terrorists of this ilk.
It had happened gradually. The tolerance and commitment to multiculturalism of British society had allowed, and even in some cases given official legitimacy to, mosques where young, disaffected, and sometimes poor Muslims could be inculcated into radicalism. The North London Central Mosque, which would become notorious for just such activity, had the blessing of no less than Prince Charles, who attended its opening in 1994. The mosque would become home to radical imam Abu Hamza al Masri, and several terrorists would pass through it, perhaps the most well-known being “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid. Over time, the climate had become much more sinister, as extremists had taken advantage of the very tolerance which had allowed them to flourish, to preach a message of intolerance, hate, and violence.
As knowledge of this change in London became much more widely known, the reaction of some major public figures was puzzling. Prince Charles was heard to say that when he became King, he would be known as “Defender of Faith,” not “Defender of the Faith (Church of England),” as past monarchs had been, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury agreed. The current Archbishop of Canterbury was quoted as saying that the adoption of Sharia, or Islamic Law, was “unavoidable.” This position was a particularly cynical one, an embracing of another type of religious law as a means to justify the legitimacy of Judeo-Christian influence on the legal system. Shortly afterward, the most senior judge in England and Wales took a more measured tone, but still opined that Sharia could “be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.” So, instead of distancing itself from the superstitious nonsense of religious influence, the legal system was instead moving towards more acceptance of accenting religious differences in the law.
From time to time, I would hear or read a story about the London Olympics in 2012. Whenever I did, I imagined that it would be an irresistible target for terrorists. However, I would always think that the organizers of the games, with so much time to consider everything, would have plans in place to ensure the security of the athletes, the spectators, and the city itself.
Events this year, and especially in recent weeks, have left me with serious doubts, however. During the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a convicted sex offender mingled with the Royal Family after being invited to official Jubilee events by Prince Charles’s (him again) office. G4S, the company that won the contract to provide security for the games, has proven to be extremely unreliable, having failed to recruit enough staff or to train ororganize them properly. And, earlier this week, a story emerged about an 11-year-old boy who boarded a flight from England to Italy without a ticket, boarding pass, or even a passport. These developments don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.
The British government has called in 3,500 troops to make up for the recruiting failures of G4S. This is in addition to the 13,500 troops already on Olympic security detail. Adding to those totals, there is also the London Police, and the highly suspect G4S employees. I worry that, with all of those guns, mixing with poorly-trained security personnel, and with the thousands of tourists and spectators, that there will be some sort of mistake, and that an innocent person or people may be hurt due to inexperience or negligence on the part of security forces. Even more, I worry that a targeted terrorist attack will be successful.
Now, more than seven years after those two days shook the city in vastly different ways, I hope that the world sees only jubilation on the streets of London. Still, I can't shake the dread.