Exactly five years after the suicide bombings of 7 July 2005 that killed 52 people on underground trains and on a bus in London, I am in London myself. More specifically, I am on a underground train as I am writing this. To be precise, I am taking the Circle Line and the Picadilly Line on some of the exact same routes as the bombers of 7/7 (as these terror attacks have become known) did.
Jotting down these lines, I am going through the tunnel between Liverpool Street and Aldgate where one of the explosions occurred, and I experience – nothing. Nothing different at least from a regular evening in London. The underground is full, with Londoners and tourists, with the usual cosmopolitan mix of white and black, African and Asian, baggy pants and headscarfs, Financial Times and Al-Hayat. Passengers are carrying backpacks and suitcases, each one of them large enough for more explosives than the 7/7 bombers used.
Yet nobody checked these bags. None of the luggage is scanned. There are no police officers on the train or at the station. Nobody asks for an ID when boarding the train. I didn’t have to walk through a scanner, throw away my water bottle, or let somebody pat down my legs.
While we have all gotten used to these procedures in some countries and for international travel, in London everything is “normal”, like in pre-terrorism times, even on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in the history of Britain.
This normality radiates a feeling of calmness and yes, even of freedom. Freedom to move wherever I want without being checked, controlled, searched and stopped, but also freedom from fear.
Maybe Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen are not the places where the fight against terrorism can be won. Maybe we should try to win this fight closer to home, by refusing to change our lives, to limit our freedoms and to be intimidated by fear.