NADIA KABIR BARB
It suddenly dawned on me that I had left my hand luggage at the information desk in the airport. I hotfooted it back to the counter to retrieve my bag and as I approached the counter, I could see a police officer clad in a bullet-proof vest armed with a sub machine gun prodding around in my bag. When I reached him and told him apologetically that the bag belonged to me, he smiled at me wearily and said, "Madam, you really should be more careful especially in light of the recent events in London." Once again I apologised for my carelessness and went in search of the rest of the family. A few weeks ago, the sight of a policeman in protective gear and a sub machine gun would have been a conspicuous sight but after the bombings of 7/7 in London and the second spate of bombings exactly two weeks later, this has become an alarmingly common scene. The initial reaction of London and its inhabitants to the bombing of 7/7 was to approach the situation with the typical stiff upper lip characteristic of the British.
But the second spate of attempted terrorist attacks on the London Underground and the shooting to death of a passenger, mistaken for a suspected suicide bomber, in full view of commuters have shaken the tough exterior of the British public. We are now privy to an increased number of policemen on the streets and in public places. The sound of police sirens wailing on the streets brings with it fears of new attacks, and emergency evacuation of tubes and buses due to packages left unattended on public transport, is now becoming more and more frequent. However, despite the fewer numbers of passengers on the tubes, and people being more alert, the buses are still relatively packed and the streets and shops still seem to bustle with activity even if it is not to the extent prior to the bombings. As many people have commented post 7/7, "You can't let this get to you, you just have to get on with things." I was on a bus the other day when suddenly a member of the London Transport got on board and told us that we had to vacate the bus immediately and get on the bus in front. We weren't sure what the reasons were, whether it was another bomb scare or just a malfunction of the bus, but people were extremely calm as they filed out of the number 6 bus, and headed for the one in front. There was no panic or pandemonium with people trying to push past. In fact it was almost a feeling of inconvenience. Hats off to the British so far for their resilience and stoicism.
My heart goes out to all those who where injured in the attacks and to those 52 who lost their lives and also to their families for their loss. In the same way my thoughts are with those who died in the recent bombings in Egypt. In a twisted way it brings closer to us what civilians in Iraq have to live through every day. There has been a non-stop onslaught of violence and suicide bombings taking place with the loss of lives now in the tens of thousands and increasing with every passing hour. However much, Tony Blair may wish to disassociate the recent bombings in London with the decision to wage war in Iraq, more and more people in the UK feel that there is a distinct correlation between the two. The saying "What goes around comes around" has never borne as much significance as it does today for us in Britain. In other words, Tony Blair's decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US and enter into a war in Iraq despite the fact that a vast majority of the British population were opposed to this action, has made us prime targets for terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. We, the masses are suffering the consequences.
Judging from events since 9/11, taking on a gung-ho attitude and declaring "war on terror" seems to have created more problems than it has solved. Osama Bin Laden is still at large, the number of terrorist groups emerging is unsettling to say the least and there have been terrorist attacks in Spain, Turkey, Britain, and Egypt. In my rather humble opinion, it is probably more effective to take a practical approach by trying to formulate an achievable plan to catch the perpetrators and those behind the bombings, be it in London, Egypt or New York and to implement strategies to avert future risks of this sort instead of chasing an abstract concept. Security must be elevated but not to the extent whereby there is an infringement of civil liberties. A fine line to walk upon but nevertheless one that should be respected at all costs. It is hard to stay rational and calm in these cynical and disconcerting times but it is also imperative that we do so and not be swayed by the rhetoric that is being bandied around by both the politicians and extremist groups.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005