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7/7 bombings: it’s 16 years since I survived the attack – I’m still disappointed by counter-terrorism efforts

7 JULY 2021
INEWS

“Those in power have still not figured out how to work with communities without furthering discrimination and mistrust”

 

JAN Trust CEO and 7/7 survivor Sajda Mughal OBE has written for iNews about her reflections on that tragic day in July, sixteen years on, and where the UK is now.

 

Read the full piece here or below.

 

 

Those in power have still not figured out how to work with communities without furthering discrimination and mistrust.

 

I was on a Piccadilly Line train near Russell Square on 7 July 2005, a few carriages down from where the bomb went off.  I live with the memories of the 7/7 bombings to this day, and I fear that, 16 years on, not enough is being done to prevent another attack.

 

When it gets to this time of year, my husband will tell me I’ve been talking or screaming in my sleep. I still dislike taking the Tube unless absolutely necessary. 

 

Not wanting others to experience the trauma I have, coupled with the horror of finding out I had nearly been murdered by men who claimed to follow my religion, Islam, is what motivated me to leave my dream corporate job and join the JAN Trust, an organisation empowering women and young people from minority backgrounds to prevent extremism and hate.

 

Whilst it is undeniable that some progress has been made in the UK since 2005 and potential terrorist attacks have been prevented, it is clear to me that the UK is in a very dark place when it comes to counter-extremism.

 

We have frequently heard about “missed opportunities” to intervene before an incident of violent extremism – most recently in the Manchester Arena terror attack inquiry and Fishmongers’ Hall inquest. Mistakes are still being made in surveillance. 

 

However what remains concerning to me is that those in power have still not figured out how to work with communities without furthering discrimination and mistrust.

 

Concerns that Prevent, the Government’s counter-extremism strategy, exacerbates division and Islamophobia remain unaddressed. The scheme still involves people reporting one another, encouraging a culture of suspicion and mistrust.

 

It needs to be overhauled or abandoned. For example, there are Prevent-funded programmes whose aim is integration. Framing it in this way – that Muslims need to be “integrated into British society” to minimise threat – is divisive. It is no surprise that Islamophobia and far-right extremism are on the rise with rhetoric like this. The strategy is fundamentally not fit for purpose.

 

Another concern is that mental health professionals are being embedded in counter-terrorism police forces around the UK. While mental health support sounds like a positive thing, charities have raised concerns that this is monitoring and discriminating against Muslims with existing mental health problems.

 

I couldn’t have made it through 2005 without seeking treatment for my mental health. It’s horrifying to think that someone who has made the conscious decision to proactively seek help could find themselves stigmatised or labelled a potential terrorist.

 

The Government needs to admit that since 7/7, through some of its counter-terrorism efforts, it has only worsened mistrust between minority communities and the authorities. Those in power need to stop looking at this just in terms of security but also put measures in place that support and empower people.

 

Today, as I do on all days, I hold dear the memory of those whose lives were so violently ripped away from them 16 years ago. I hope that, in 16 years’ time, the future will look much brighter.

sajda blog

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