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On a crisp, sunlit morning in March, I ceased to feel at home in London. It dawned on me that the city where I had been born 58 years ago was no longer safe.

(Illustration by Michael Daley)

I was walking past two men at a stall outside my local Underground station. Their beards and dress revealed them as Salafists; they were proselytising for their fundamentalist form of Islam. My face must have betrayed my anxiety, because they started pointing and talking while I entered the station. As I looked round, both men were grinning at me.

Why did I find their presence disquieting? A couple of hours earlier in Brussels, three suicide bombers had detonated nail bombs in the airport and on the Metro, killing 32 passengers outright and inflicting horrific wounds on another 312 people, of whom 62 were critically injured — all in the name of the Islamic State. It was hard to believe that the two jovial gentlemen outside the station could have been unaware of what had just taken place less than 200 miles away. That was presumably why they were there.

As I descended into the Tube, my thoughts went back to a similar morning, July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers struck the London transport system. I was going to work on one of the Tube lines that was attacked, having just delivered my two youngest children to their school. Like thousands of others, I was lucky to be on a different train and to have escaped injury, but 52 died and 700 were maimed in the name of al-Qaeda. At the time, Londoners assumed that this terrorist threat would eventually pass, just as the IRA threat with which we had grown up had passed. Though Madrid had already been attacked, killing 192 and injuring more than 2,000, nothing on the scale of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington had then seemed likely. But over the past decade the threat has grown steadily worse. Above all, last year there had been the attacks on Paris, since which the French capital had yet to return to normality.  After Paris and Brussels, I looked back on the horror of London 11 years ago with a sickening feeling of dread. Was there any reason to suppose that such attacks would not be repeated, now that jihadis loyal to IS had multiplied across Europe and notably in London? We now know that Mohamed Abrini, the “man in the hat” bomber who survived the Brussels airport attacks, was not only also involved in the Paris massacre, but visited Britain last July and allegedly met more than a dozen Islamists here. At the time of writing, five Britons have been arrested.

As if on cue, on the day after the Brussels bombs, two West London students were convicted of plotting a “drive-by” attack on the police station that I had passed every day on my journey to school or work for the past 21 years. A gun and silencer had been supplied by two others, plans had been made to shoot police and army recruits, links with IS had emerged in court. The ringleader, a medic called Tarik Hassane, had attended the same West London mosque as Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John”, the notorious IS executioner. His fellow jihadi, King’s College physicist Suhaib Majeed, had invited a notorious extremist preacher to address the Islamic Society there in March 2014. Uthman Lateef urged students at King’s to go to Syria. At least 800 have fought for jihadist groups, including IS, and hundreds of these — including about 100 “high-risk” terrorists — have returned to London to join about 2,000 IS supporters who have been prevented from going to Syria, plus thousands of other extremists monitored by police and MI5.

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Anonymousmike mouse
January 4th, 2018
3:01 PM
16 muslim MPs - 5m muslims - 425 mosques in London 100 in Bradford 162 in Birmingham - Corbyn supports them - what is the agenda of a theocratic totalitarian fascist dictatorship masquerading as a 7th century religion forcing women to breed for a non existent deity - islam is a scam and they are being paid for by taxpayers even when 15000 muslim criminals are in UK prisons for drug dealing and raping under age white girls and not being deported. WHY is the UK government allowing them into this non islamic country?

August 19th, 2016
6:08 PM
I second BobbyDigital's comment entirely. I fear that our future as a free Western democratic society is in peril. The end of fundamental Western values. 'Terrifying' is really an understatement.

May 10th, 2016
10:05 AM
'The Muslim “block vote” is such a formidable electoral force that for Islamists to dominate a city it does not need to have a Muslim majority.' Enough to send a shiver of fear down the spine of any Londoner. For the first time since I came here 20 years ago, I'm making serious plans on leaving - for good.

May 9th, 2016
7:05 PM
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. "A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. "Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome." --Sir Winston Churchill, from a speech published in The River War, Vol 1, 1899

Brian Richard Allen
May 9th, 2016
7:05 PM
.... in Brussels, three suicide bombers detonated nail bombs .... You flatter them. They - as are all of their ilk - were hesperophobically-psychopathic, gutless, homicide bombers. Brian Richard Allen

May 7th, 2016
6:05 PM
It beggars belief that the government, did I say government, didn't see this coming. It displays a total ignorance of understanding the word Extrapolation - they do not look ahead, and this displays a complacency that will have huge consequences, having capitulated like a weary old man and placed the UK into great danger. Look out now for the real show, and there's no going back. Thanks a lot you dummies.

May 7th, 2016
4:05 PM
In the UK at present we have been duped by the BBC - preferably known now as the British Brainwashing Corporation who have not supported this Country's values and rejected Islam as a wicked and evil ideology. For Jews and Christians alike we have been marginalized and made to look as bigots if we have any views on Islam and its ideology. The BBC is so politically correct that we are fed with the view that Islam is to be tolerated and that we must accept it as a consequence of being open and tolerant. Sadiq Khan may show his true colours soon when he either condones acts of terrorism or when this Mega Mosque gets a green light to be built in West Ham, London. He cannot deny his allegiance to being an impartial believer as a Muslim when challenged, above all he will either support Islam or be forever a target for the extremists who are growing by the day here.

May 7th, 2016
6:05 AM
I used to feel sorry for those who dont have children . Now I feel sorry for those who do considering the future of Britain, Europe and in fact the world

Paul Bedson
May 2nd, 2016
12:05 PM
Islam will only reform when it is universally accepted that 2 of the 3 instances of the use of the word Bekkah in the Koran actually do refer to the Bekkah in Lebanon and not Mekkah in Saudi. Once that happens and they archaeologically excavate the original garden of the gods / Eden / Jannah in the Aaiha plain, Bekkah, Lebanon at the first spring of the Jordan / Hasbani. Then you get the Islamic "enlightenment".

Brian Richard Allen
May 1st, 2016
7:05 AM
There are those many who pray and wait for islam's reformation - for its enlightenment. And there are those few who know it has recently reformed and that "islamic state" is the product of its enlightenment. G-d save London - G-d save once great Britain -- and G-d save what little is Left of Judeo-Christian/Western/Human Civilization. (And may the execrable Tiny Blair et al, who treasonously engineered their nation's invasion and hostile colonization -- and Left it to its impending doom -- all rot and burn in Hell!) Brian Richard Allen

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