I was born in Central London. I am London and London is me. For the entire duration of my existence on this planet Londoners have lived under the shadow of terrorism.
I was born the same year the Provisional IRA were formed. As Londoners we endured the provisionals, the INLA, the car bombs, the Harrods bombs, the Hyde Park bombs, the Regents Park bombs, Brixton, Canary Wharf, the Iranian embassy, the Libyan embassy, Palestinians, anarchists, the Compton Street nail bombing of a gay bar (I was as physically close as it’s possible to be to that one without being injured), Al Qaeda, the 7/7 bombings, decapitations of soldiers, and the Brighton bomb that assassinated several members of Margaret Thatcher’s entourage wasn’t far away either.
Beginning with the Fenians in Victorian times, Londoners have been stoic in their refusal to allow terrorists to destroy their way of life. In all their many guises terrorists came, they went and everyone still carried on regardless.
London is a city about tolerance for everyone, where people are free to be themselves, free from persecution and medieval ideologies. That’s what fundamentalists of all stripes hate about us and the city. Barbarism doesn’t begin at home, it begins in the jihadi training camps of the Middle East and Pakistan and the like.
War and imperialism are convenient justifications to kill, though of course the vast majority of the British public wish to live in peace and have never ever been consulted when the government of the day pursues ‘campaigns’ thousands of miles away in their name. No, what the Salifis really hate about Londoners (and New Yorkers, Berliners, Parisians et al) is that we show everyday, just by existing, how people of different faiths, sexualities and beliefs can coexist.
London represents the polar opposite of their murderous, manichean interpretation of Islam and they can’t stand it. They live by binaries of ‘us and them’ because it’s simplistic, just like their tiny minds. We don’t have to join that game. As the age-old war sign instructed, Keep Calm And Carry On.
There is no alternative.
Oh, and I’ll be flying to London next week as planned.
First published: Facebook, March 2017